Enforcement would be strengthened at OSHA and MSHA under the President’s proposed fiscal year 2016 budget.
OSHA would receive $592.1 million, a 7% increase over the $552.8 million from the FY 2015 budget. The bulk of the increase, $26.2 million, would go toward federal and state enforcement efforts and whistleblower protections. Federal compliance assistance efforts would increase by just $4.6 million. The Susan G. Harwood training grants program, described in the budget as a compliance assistance program, would see a $150,000 infusion, to $10.7 million.
“The FY 2016 budget request will enable the agency to implement enforcement and whistleblower initiatives designed to have a far reaching impact; work on both longstanding and complex standards, such as the Crystalline Silica rule; and engage in outreach and training activities to enhance worker voice and train vulnerable, hard-to-reach workers in dangerous jobs about their rights and the hazards they face,” OSHA said in its budget proposal, released February 2.
OSHA’s budget, if enacted, would enable the agency to add 90 new positions, raising total agency employment to 2,314. Sixty new positions would be dedicated to enforcement, and another 22 to the whistleblower protection program. Many of the new enforcement positions would handle the increased workload produced by new injury reporting requirements that took effect January 1, the agency said. The standards development unit would get three new hires; the remaining five would be added to the safety and health statistics group.
OSHA’s inspection goal for 2016 was set at 37,785, just 300 more inspections than the agency calculated it would accomplish in 2015. State inspections were predicted to reach 47,567, up 2% from 2015’s estimate of 46,675.
The safety agency also seeks a change in its appropriations language to authorize OSHA to conduct targeted safety and health inspections of small establishments that have the potential for catastrophic incidents, specifically those covered by OSHA’s Process Safety Management regulations or EPA’s Chemical Accident Prevention provisions. The targeted operations would be those with a low injury rate and employing up to 10 employees within the past 12 months. Employers conducting farming, harvesting, or processing operations would be exempt.
Regarding MSHA, the proposed budget calls for a 5.1% increase, which would raise that agency’s total allocation to $394.9 million, from $375.9 million. The Coal Division would receive a $7.9 million boost, with about half of the money going to enforce a new respirable coal dust rule and to conduct off-shift inspections. OAASEI, an administrative unit devoted to supporting enforcement efforts, would get $1.1 million more and six new employees, increasing total agency employment to 2,322.
MSHA’s Educational Policy and Development group would get a $4.1 million lift to strengthen training resources for agency employees and the mining industry in general. In a surprise move, MSHA’s budget also includes $8.4 million for the states, an amount the agency sought unsuccessfully to delete in its 2015 budget. The state funds historically have been used for miner training.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission would receive $13.2 million and 10 new positions. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission would get $17.1 million.
As expected, the White House budget had Democrats praising it and Republicans expressing opposition. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, described the White House proposal as “a strong starting point” for building a “bipartisan budget deal.” Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, called it “irresponsible.” Congressional hearings will begin soon.