Congressional foes of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have proposed to slash tens of millions of dollars from the agency’s standards, enforcement and information programs for the rest of this year.
The cuts would return OSHA to its 2004 funding level and could force shutdowns for several months, officials said.
House Republicans have proposed cutting $99 million from the OSHA budget in H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution that would fund the federal budget for the rest of FY2010.
"The Republicans have proposed a 20% cut, and given [that] half a year's over, that really means a 40% cut," OSHA administrator David Michaels says. "It would really have a devastating effect on all of our activities."
House Education and the
Workforce Committee Democrats
The cuts would likely mean layoffs of hundreds of
inspectors and thousands fewer health and safety
inspections, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
told a House Committee.
The cuts would delay new standards, eliminate about 18,000 workplace safety inspections, and possibly lead to the layoffs of several recent OSHA hires, including 200 inspectors, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis has testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
‘Stops Jobs from Killing Workers’
Congressional Republicans have been working hard to fight what they call the “job-killing” excesses of several federal agencies, primarily OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency. Like all federal agencies, OSHA is under orders from President Obama to review its regulations and proposals for initiatives that are outdated, redundant or overly burdensome on business.
OSHA already has withdrawn two proposals since January: one that would have mandated more environmental controls over workplace noise and one that would have restored a check-off column for repetitive motion injuries on OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), which most businesses already keep. Business groups had opposed both measures.
Michaels says his agency needs to do a better job explaining the repetitive motion proposal. He also says that his agency reviews all rules for their impact on business and invites public comment on all proposals.
OSHA can protect jobs and workers at the same time, Michaels recently told National Public Radio. "We believe we can do both," he said. "We know that OSHA doesn't kill jobs. It stops jobs from killing workers.”
“When employers embrace safety, they actually save money. We know that's true. They often don't believe it, but we show them. And we have consultants who provide that information for free."
‘Shame’ for Employers
Not good enough, Republicans say.
First-term Rep. Tim Walberg
says OSHA is “more focused
on punishment than prevention.”
"Over the last two years, OSHA has not only attempted to implement several policy changes that would have profound impact on the workplace; it has become an administration more focused on punishment than prevention," said Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
"Our goal should be to prevent workplace accidents before they happen, not simply shame an employer once a tragedy has occurred on the job site."
The measure would make these cuts from both the enacted FY2010 budget and the FY 2011 budget request:
• Safety and Health Standards ($3 million)
• Federal Enforcement ($41.3 million)
• State Programs ($14.9 million)
• Technical Support ($4.2 million)
• Safety and Health Statistics ($34.9 million)
• Executive Direction and Administration ($0.7 million)
The “Safety and Health Statistics” cuts could eliminate the OSHA web site, which Solis said millions of people use. The Obama administration has proposed increasing spending on OSHA in the next fiscal year by just over 4%.
‘There May Be More Injuries’
Solis told the House committee that the cuts could lead to more workplace injuries, fewer inspections and reduced compliance.
OSHA is “on the front lines protecting workers from workplace hazards,” she testified in February. “Even though we have made incredible progress in protecting workers on the job since these two agencies were established decades ago, it is still wholly unacceptable that nearly 4,400 workers died last year on the job and over 3 million were seriously injured.”
The Senate’s Continuing Resolution maintains current funding of $558.6 million for OSHA.