“This appointment is a clear sign that Hilda Solis and the Obama Administration are going to reverse years of deteriorating attention to workplace safety and health at OSHA,” says LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan, referring to the choice of Jordan Barab as the Deputy Assistant Director and Acting Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health at the U.S. Department of Labor. “Secretary Solis has made a strong choice, and we can expect sharper, more energetic efforts from the agency to protect workers.”

Barab, who assumed his new duties on April 13, will lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) until a permanent Assistant Secretary is chosen by Solis and approved by Congress later this year. Subsequently, Barab will remain at OSHA as Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Barab’s credentials as a health and safety advocate are firmly established from his 2003 to 2007 stint as publisher of Confined Space, a workplace safety blog through which he routinely clashed with OSHA and the Bush Administration on policy issues. Barab closed the blog in 2007, after he became the senior labor advisor to the House Education and Labor Committee. Last summer, while he served that committee, it held hearings on construction safety that sharply questioned OSHA enforcement.

A California native and graduate of Claremont McKenna College, Barab has a master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University (1978). He ran the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) health and safety program for 16 years before becoming special assistant director of labor for OSHA in 1998, under the Clinton Administration. He was a consultant to the AFL-CIO Safety and Health Department from 2001 to 2002 and worked at the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board from 2002 to 2007.

“OSHA lost its focus during the Bush years,” says O’Sullivan, “but Barab’s commitment to protecting workers is well established. I believe that the OSHA staff is eager to fulfill the role that Congress envisioned for it, and Jordan Barab is the right leader at the right time.”

[Steve Clark]

Barab addresses OSHA’s staff with a vision of the agency’s potential in OSHA Underground.

On the occasion of Workers’ Memorial Day 2009, LIUNA General President O’Sullivan calls for OSHA renewal after eight years of Bush Administration neglect in an essay in the Las Vegas Sun.