Enforcement and Inspection, Regulatory Developments

Slight Cuts for OSHA in Proposed Budget

The proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2018 is out, and President Trump is asking Congress to approve an overall cut of $2.4 billion for the Department of Labor (DOL), a reduction of 21 percent.

The budget earmarks $543 million for OSHA, including $130 million for state and federal compliance activities. The current allocation is $554 million. While the appropriation is not radically lower, the money would be allocated differently than in the past. For example, the plan calls for elimination of the Susan B. Harwood training grant program, which the administration calls “unproven.”

The budget would provide a slight increase for DOL’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agency, would feel a significant effect if the proposed budget becomes law. Funding for NIOSH would drop from $335 million to $200 million.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency that investigates chemical explosions and other incidents, is slated for elimination, according to the budget document.

Reaction and Response to the 2018 Budget Proposal

According to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, “This budget reflects the Department of Labor’s core mission and commitment to ensuring all Americans have access to good, safe jobs—and does so in a fiscally responsible way.

The White House says the budget proposal places a priority on helping protect American workers and helping employers understand and comply with worker protection laws by putting an emphasis on compliance assistance and outreach.

Analysis by the law firm Conn Maciel Carey suggests that the budget may result in fewer inspections, with the emphasis shifting away from enforcement and toward compliance assistance and cooperative programs. As well, Conn Maciel Carey predicts the budget would result in a decrease in resources for rulemaking by OSHA and other DOL agencies. The firm advises, “Notwithstanding expected cuts to DOL’s enforcement and regulatory programs, employers should remain vigilant in ensuring compliance with Wage and Hour, OSHA, and other DOL rules.”

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) reacted strongly to the fiscal year 2018 proposal. AIHA chief executive officer Lawrence Sloan said the organization is greatly concerned about cuts to the Harwood training program, NIOSH and its education and research centers, and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. “Overall,” said Sloane, “You cannot make America great again without protecting the health and safety of America’s workers. More, not less, must be done.”