By Edwin S. Hopson
On March 1, 2011, National Public Radio reported on its website that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to cut about $99 million in federal spending in the current fiscal year from the budget for the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). According to OSHA Administrator David Michaels, the proposed a 20% cut as applied to the remaining months of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, actually amounts to a 40% reduction in OSHA’s budget for the period covered. Michael’s says this would have a devastating effect on his agency’s activities during the next 6-7 months.
House Republicans have claimed that OSHA’s recent stepped enforcement activities threaten jobs and focuses too much on “punishment [rather] than prevention.” At a recent hearing on the issue, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Michigan Republican Tim Walberg, questioned the agency’s priorities.
NPR quotes OSHA Administrator Michaels as countering with: “[w]e know that OSHA doesn’t kill jobs. It stops jobs from killing workers. When employers embrace safety, they actually save money.”
Peg Seminario, the safety and health director of the AFL-CIO, is also quoted by NPR: “[w]e now have a much bigger workforce than we had 40 years ago when OSHA was started. But they would propose to slash the agency, slash enforcement, slash standards-setting, leaving the agency essentially crippled and unable to do its job to protect workers.”
The U.S. Senate now has to take up the House-passed cuts and, along with the President, has to come to some agreement with the House to avoid a government shutdown.