David Michaels PhD, MPH is an epidemiologist and professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health. He was Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health from 2009 through January 2017, the longest serving in OSHA's history.
Under his leadership, OSHA strengthened exposure standards for silica and beryllium, and issued new rules on safety, injury record-keeping and reporting, and hazard communication. He launched OSHA’s Temporary Workers Initiative; greatly increased the agency’s focus on the healthcare industry; expanded OSHA's activities to protect whistleblowers under Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, and 19 other financial, environmental, transportation, and public health laws; and issued OSHA's first compliance guide and recommended practices for employers for preventing and addressing workplace retaliation.
Much of Dr. Michaels' current work focuses is on the relationship between safety and health management systems, operational excellence and sustainability. He has lectured extensively on the topic and directed OSHA's first activities on sustainability in environment, social and governance (ESG).
Dr. Michaels served as the Department of Energy's Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health, serving from 1998 through January 2001. In this position, he had primary responsibility for protecting the health and safety of workers, the neighboring communities and the environment surrounding the nation's nuclear weapons facilities. Dr. Michaels was the chief architect of the historic initiative to compensate workers in the nuclear weapons complex who developed cancer or lung disease as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium and other hazards. Since its enactment in 2000, The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program has provided more than $17 billion in benefits to sick workers and their families. He also oversaw promulgation of two major public rules: Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention and Nuclear Safety Management.
Dr. Michaels is a leader in efforts to protect the integrity of the science underpinning public health and environmental protections, and is the author of "Doubt is Their Product" (Oxford University Press, 2008) and “The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception" (Oxford University Press, 2020), as well as numerous articles in Science, JAMA, and other leading scientific publications.
He founded and directed the Epidemiology Unit of the Montefiore-Rikers Island Health Service, the first such unit in a jail in the United States, conducting studies on tuberculosis, sexually-transmitted disease, drug abuse, mental health, homelessness and HIV. In the early 1990s, Dr. Michaels developed a widely-cited mathematical model estimating the number of children and adolescents orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Michaels received the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award for his work on behalf of nuclear weapons workers and for his advocacy for scientific integrity. He is also the recipient of the American Public Health Association's David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health, the John P. McGovern Science and Society Award given by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists' William D. Wagner Award.
Dr. Michaels is a graduate of the City College of New York, and holds an MPH (Master of Public Health) and PhD from Columbia University.