Federal agencies

Appropriations deal freezes OSHA funding


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Washington – A new omnibus appropriations bill clears the way for OSHA to promulgate a new standard on silica, but restricts the agency’s use of non-regulatory actions such as guidance documents or letters of interpretation.

The House and Senate on Dec. 16 released the deal, which freezes OSHA funding for the current fiscal year at $552 million. The agency’s funding has remained at roughly the same amount for the previous two fiscal years.

Along with the plateaued funding, the appropriations deal contains a provision delaying OSHA’s enforcement of a new interpretation for its Process Safety Management Standard that would have limited an exemption for retail establishments selling small quantities of hazardous chemicals. OSHA claims the exemption has been incorrectly applied to large establishments making more than 50 percent of their income from the sale of certain hazardous chemicals, but industry leaders and some lawmakers consider the move a means to bypass the formal rulemaking process. The provision in the appropriations bill bars funding for enforcing the interpretation until OSHA completes a formal rule on the issue.

However, provisions in previous appropriations bills limiting OSHA’s plans were removed from the final deal, including an effort to lengthening the rulemaking process for silica and language altering OSHA’s policy regarding employee representation in walkaround inspections.

At press time, the House and Senate were expected to vote on the bill soon.