President Trump has proposed a budget for next year that would cut all funding for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The Chemical Safety Board is an independent federal agency that has operated since 1998. It is responsible for investigating accidents at chemical plants and refineries, such as the Deepwater Horizon and West Fertilizer disasters. Unlike the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency does not issue citations or fines; instead, it makes safety recommendations to the industry.
The CSB has a board of five experts who serve five-year terms and other staff to help with investigations. The CSB also employs investigators and other personnel to assist in its activities, such as go to accident scenes, review evidence, conduct interviews and analyze records. Reports are then made that reconstruct the accidents in detail and make recommendations to improve safety. Investigations can, and often do, last years.
The CSB has recently been plagued with minor issues, including the ouster of its chairman in 2014 when it was alleged the agency was mismanaged. Trump’s 2018 budget proposal indicates he will eliminate the CSB’s annual funding of $12 million. The proposed budget is not final, but it is a signal of the president’s priorities. As such, it is possible the CSB might continue.
The CSB said in a statement that it is disappointed by the proposed budget. Its chairman feels the agency is critical because “[o]ur investigations and recommendations have had an enormous effect on improving public safety.”
The budget proposal gives new insight into the president’s view of the government’s role in workplace health and safety issues. Also interesting is that the president does not call for eliminating the agency – simply defunding it. As such, the board members will stay in place but will lack the funds and money to carry out their mission. It is thus likely that the agency will cease to effectively operate.