David Michaels, an epidemiologist who has pushed to protect workers suffering from radiation exposure and other hazards, is President Barack Obama's pick to run the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Michaels, a research professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, served from 1998 to 2001 as Assistant Secretary of Energy, a job that made him responsible for protecting the safety of workers and communities surrounding nuclear weapons facilities.
There, he led an initiative to compensate nuclear weapons workers who developed occupational illnesses following exposure to radiation and other hazards.
If confirmed by the Senate, Michaels would lead an agency that has begun to take a more direct role in protecting workers. He would serve under Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a former House Democrat viewed as an advocate for workers and labor unions.
Jordan Barab, a former congressional staffer who has been serving as OSHA's acting head, would continue to hold a high-ranking job as deputy assistant secretary.
Michaels drew praise from some workplace safety advocates.
"His recent leadership work on chemical hazards . . . demonstrates his commitment to protecting workers from unregulated hazards," said Eric Frumin, safety and health coordinator for Change to Win, a federation of seven national unions.
He also got support from some Congressional Democrats involved in workplace safety issues.
"Dr. Michaels' expertise and leadership is needed as OSHA continues to restore vital health and safety protections for America's workers," said U.S. Rep. George Miller D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. "I look forward to working with Dr. Michaels and Secretary Solis to ensure the agency has the tools it needs to accomplish this mission."
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