Former Labor Department Lawyer Named Acting OSHA Chief

By Nash, James L. | Occupational Hazards, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Former Labor Department Lawyer Named Acting OSHA Chief


Nash, James L., Occupational Hazards


In choosing Jonathan Snare to be acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao settled upon a relatively known and reliable political appointee to lead the agency until there is a permanent replacement for former OSHA head John Henshaw, who resigned as of Dec. 31. Snare, who reportedly had worked closely with OSHA in his previous position as the senior advisor to the Department of Labor's solicitor of labor, also has been appointed deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

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Prior to joining the solicitor's office at the Department of Labor in June 2003, Snare had a private law practice in Texas that concentrated in commercial litigation, including labor and employment, government affairs, administrative law and election law. He also was active in the Texas Republican Party and participated in some of the controversial congressional redistricting cases.

The choice of a political appointee with little background in safety and health to run OSHA was accepted by industry. "It's business as usual and the lines of communication remain very open," said Diane Hurns, a spokesperson for the American Society of Safety Engineers.

Some labor stakeholders, however, objected to the appointment. "The agency should be headed by individuals who have a background and involvement in safety and health issues," said Peg Seminario, director of the AFL-CIO's safety and health department. She argued the choice of Snare represented a double departure from past practice: Previous acting OSHA administrators have been career OSHA officials rather than political appointees; and past political appointees to the deputy assistant position, such as Gary Visscher, have had safety and health experience. …

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