U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao announced on Dec. 14, 2004, the appointment of Jonathan Snare as the deputy assistant secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to replace the outgoing OSHA head John Henshaw. Although Snare will oversee the safety and health of 100 million workers under OSHA’s jurisdiction, it was not deemed important enough for significant media coverage.

I was dismayed about the appointment, but grateful to blogger Jordan Barab of Confined Space (spewingforth.blogspot.com) for his coverage.

Prior to joining OSHA, Snare was in private practice in Texas with Jackson and Walker, LLP, a firm whose web site boasts its

areas of expertise include “union avoidance campaigns.” Snare was a paid lobbyist for Metabolife, the nation’s leading producer of ephedra products. Ephedra was finally banned after the FDA received reports of many deaths due to this harmful supplement.

As election operations vice-president of the Republican National Lawyers Committee, Snare helped organize and train Republican lawyers to go to South Dakota and other states to make sure that Democrats and Native Americans didn’t “steal the election.” He also served as general counsel to the Texas Senate Redistricting Committee and general counsel to the Republican Party of Texas.

It would seem that Snare’s appointment has more to do with the past political favors he performed rather than his ability or desire to protect workers, which is consistent with the administration’s policy of dismantling the regulatory framework designed to protect workers.

The Bush administration has cancelled rules that would have required special protection for workers with high risk for exposure to tuberculosis. Current OSHA administrator John Henshaw, a former executive with Monsanto, cancelled rules governing such things as occupational injuries, exposure to carcinogens and safety ratings on respiratory masks.

The recently resigned head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Bush appointee and former mining executive David Lauriski has rescinded more than a half dozen proposals intended to make miners’ jobs safer, including limiting exposure to toxic chemicals and is proposing changes that will allow coal dust levels to rise and put miners at greater risk for black lung disease. Another rule being pushed would make it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which could increase the risk of fire.

Our family was devastated when my brother Gary Puleio was killed on the job at a concrete plant on Aug. 15, 2001. He fell 25 feet to his death, from a cement tower, while shoveling gravel off the hopper to clean it.

My brother’s death was not an isolated, bad-luck case. Almost 6,000 Americans were killed in workplace accidents in 2002. Another 50,000 die each year from occupational diseases caused by asbestos, pesticides, solvents and chemicals.

OSHA lacks the resources to protect 100 million workers. OSHA’S current budget of $475 million amounts to about $4 per worker. The number of hours spent per OSHA inspection has decreased between 1999 and 2003. The number of cases “downgraded” to less serious violations is rising and the penalties for serious violations remain low with the average in 2003 around $900.

I can never forget the terrible way my brother died. What is most painful is the inadequacy of the regulatory system that was supposed to protect him and the further harm that is being done to workers’ safety and health by the Bush administration.

The appointment of Jonathan Snare is an insult and an injury to those of us who shall always grieve the loss of our loved ones and to the 100 million workers under OSHA’s jurisdiction.