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2013 Manufacturing, Trade & Workforce

Labor Department

David Michaels, Assistant Secretary, Occupational Safety and Health Administration

An epidemiologist, Michaels assumed leadership of this agency that oversees working conditions for most private-sector and federal employees in December 2009, when he took leave as a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University's School of Public Health. He has focused on strengthening the agency's whistle-blower protection program, enforcing safety in high-risk industries, assisting small employers in meeting compliance standards, and expanding outreach to workers at greatest risk of injury and illness. In Obama's second term, Michaels, 58, hopes to develop new regulatory safeguards for injury and illness prevention, reduce chemical exposures, and modernize injury and illness recording and reporting. Before Michaels started his work at OSHA, The New York Times described him as a champion for workers' safety and applauded his emphasis on sound science. Within the agency, he is described as being a consensus-builder and accessible—including to junior employees. Michaels, who was born and raised in Manhattan, has a B.S. from the City College of New York, and a master's in public health and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has written for scientific publications, and he previously held an assistant secretary post in the Energy Department.

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