The “heart and soul” of the Occupational Health & Safety Administration is retiring next month, writes Stephen Yohay of law firm Ogletree Deakins, raising a number of questions about the agency’s future focus:
“Richard Fairfax, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, has announced that, as long-expected, he will retire on May 3, 2013. As Melissa Bailey, Managing Shareholder of Ogletree Deakins’ Washington, D.C. office stated to the media, Fairfax has been “the heart and soul” of the agency. He has served the agency in numerous capacities for 34 years, and his vast institutional knowledge cannot be replaced and will be missed. Although not always in agreement with industry and employers, he was willing to discuss important issues brought to his attention by members of the employer community. He was willing to assume that nearly all came in good faith and was open to listening to concerns.
Fairfax brought to the national office of the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) a broad range of experience that few can match… He brought a combination of “real world” and national policy experience to many of OSHA’s activities, ranging from the development of National Emphasis Programs targeting specific industries, such as refineries, to determinations about enforcement issues, including settlements, to the development of directives and interpretation letters on a broad range of issues. Fairfax also shared important data about OSHA’s activities with the public, contributing to an impression of transparency.
With Fairfax’s departure, who will become the driving force on many of the initiatives that he spearheaded? Will the sense of openness be continued? Will there be an effort to utilize the agency’s personnel so that, collectively, the range of experience he offered will be brought to bear on major issues? Will OSHA’s priorities change, and if so, how? Indeed, what should the employer community expect from OSHA enforcement on the national and local levels?”
Read the full update, With Richard Fairfax Retiring, a Crossroads for OSHA? - Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.»