Walsh Requests Budget Boost for OSHA

THURSDAY, JULY 22, 2021


U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has reportedly requested an increase in funding for Occupational Safety and Health Administration staffing. During a Senate subcommittee meeting last week, Walsh requested both an increase in the number of safety inspectors as well as wage-hour investigators, who focus on payroll.

The DOL is reportedly requesting $2.1 billion in its budget for fiscal year 2022 for worker protection agencies, including $73 million for OSHA—a 17% increase from last year.

The proposal, which would bring overall Labor Department funding to $14.2 billion, must be approved by Congress.

In his remarks to the committee, Walsh highlighted that the DOL’s protection agencies lost 14% of their personnel over the last four years, and the DOL as a whole has lost around 3,000 employees during that same timeframe.

In order to make these requests work, Walsh not only plugged both the American Rescue Plan and the American Jobs Plan, but also doubled down on the notion that increased investment in the DOL would help American workers navigate through COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Recent Inspection Shortcomings

Pandemic support from OSHA has fallen short, according to a report released earlier this year from the Department of Labor’s Inspector General that says that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not provided the level of oversight needed to keep workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report found that, compared to 2019, OSHA received 15% more complaints overall but conducted 50% fewer inspections. In addition, the federal agency issues 295 violation citations related to its 176 COVID-19-related complaints, while states issued 1,679 citations related to 756 similar complaints.

The construction industry was reportedly one of the sectors with the highest numbers of COVID-19 safety complaints last year, with 297.

The reason for the reduced level of inspections and subsequent citations is attributed to the reduction in person-to-person contact and therefore in-person inspections, despite the knowledge that OSHA’s physical presence on a jobsite typically results in accelerated mitigation of hazards.

Therefore, the Inspector General made several recommendations, including:

  • Prioritize very high and high-risk employers for COVID-19-related on-site inspections;
  • Track remote inspections retroactively to Feb. 1, 2020, and continue tracking them;
  • Compare remote inspections to on-site inspections in regard to the frequency and timeliness of inspectors identifying and ensuring abatement of worksite hazards; and
  • Adopt an infectious disease-specific ETS is necessary to help control the spread of COVID-19 on worksites.

According to the report, OSHA has accepted the recommendations and is working on all of them.

   

Tagged categories: Department of Labor; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; NA; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Safety

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