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Ex-OSHA Head Joe Dear, 62, Pushed Safety Reforms

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Joseph Dear, 62, who, as head of the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration in the 1990s, streamlined safety rules and pushed industry to develop its own voluntary measures, died on Feb. 26 in Sacramento of cancer.

Most recently, he was chief investment officer of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CALPERS), the largest U.S. pension fund.


Dear joined the U.S. Labor Dept. as assistant secretary and OSHA chief in 1993, after heading a Washington state labor agency.

He hiked penalties for willful violations and "was a bold and forward-thinking leader who embraced innovation," says David A. Michaels, current OSHA chief.

Dear also worked with industry sectors on a negotiated steel-erection standard and curbs on asphalt pollutants, according to ENR reports during his tenure.

A regional pilot "partnership" with the roofers' union and roofing groups was "the closest we've come to actually experimenting with third-party certification,'' Dear told ENR.

But his role in reducing safety record-keeping violations and fines against open-shop contractor BE&K angered the carpenters' union in 1995.

In what was seen as a surprise move, Dear left OSHA in 1997 to become chief of staff to Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D).

Dear joined CALPERS in 2009, reversing its recession-driven losses.


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