New Congress Means Restarting OSHA Assistant Secretary Confirmation Process

Posted November 21, 2018

By Mark Ames

With the holiday season soon upon us, it is easy to start looking to next year, when the 116th Congress will begin. When that happens, the confirmation process for OSHA's assistant secretary will begin anew. President Donald J. Trump nominated Scott A. Mugno to serve in this position, but the Senate has repeatedly delayed action on his confirmation.

Mugno has now been waiting since 2017 to be approved by the Senate. It is possible that the Senate could confirm him before it adjourns for the year, but there's no real pressure for that to happen right now, and with many other issues on Congress' agenda, it seems unlikely he'll be approved this year.

The lack of pressure to confirm Mugno is partly a result of the success of OSHA's deputy assistant secretary, Loren Sweatt, who is currently serving as acting assistant secretary. Many are pleased with the job Sweatt is doing at OSHA. The fact that she served as a senior policy advisor on a congressional committee for 15 years, handling OSHA, MSHA, and related issues, means that she is well known and supported in Congress.

As it stands right now, if Mugno is confirmed in 2019, it would mean he'd have less than two years to make his mark on OSHA, which is barely enough time to go through a full congressional funding schedule, get acclimated to his new position, and start making the changes he wishes. It's conceivable that if President Trump wins a second term that Mugno could remain at OSHA longer, but those are two possibilities that carry a lot of uncertainty right now. With these things in mind, one has to wonder if Mugno is even still interested in the job. If not, then Sweatt may end up serving as the acting head of OSHA for some time longer—but that might not be a bad thing at all. 

Mark Ames is AIHA’s director of Government Relations. Visit Catalyst, AIHA’s online community, for regular government relations updates.