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Seven months after President George W. Bush took office, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received new leadership. John L. Henshaw, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, will immediately become a player in the agency’s most controversial topic: ergonomics.
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao promised to announce a "comprehensive approach" to ergonomics in September. Henshaw, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 3, will lead OSHA’s implementation. Henshaw has been lauded for his extensive background in industrial hygiene. A former president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, he worked in the chemical industry for more than 26 years, where he directed environmental, safety and health programs. Most recently, he was director of environment, safety and health for Astaris LLC, a St. Louis-based joint venture between Solutia and FMC Corp. chemical firms. Henshaw, who earned a master’s of public health from the University of Michigan, has authored books on safety and health management.
"We’re supportive of his confirmation. We think he brings a stature to the job that it deserves," says Bill Borwegen, MPH, occupational health and safety director of the Service Employees Inter-national Union in Washington, DC. "It’s really an agency that needs some leadership. It also needs to motivate the staff and get them to move forward in positive directions, where it’s possible in this political climate. I’m hopeful that John has that ability."
After the confirmation, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses in Atlanta moved quickly to establish a relationship with Henshaw. Kae Livsey, RN, MPH, public policy and advocacy manager, said she wants to emphasize the important role of occupational health nurses. "The office of occupational health nursing is a very valuable office within the agency," she says. "As they look at restructuring, which I’m sure they will, we have to be assured that [occupational health nursing is] going to be recognized for what they do."