Federal agencies

Senate proposes boost to OSHA budget, calls for ‘timely’ online posting of worker fatalities

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Photo: Senate Appropriations Committee

Washington — A slight increase to OSHA’s budget and the continuation of the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program are proposed in a Senate appropriations bill for fiscal year 2019, while a report on the bill calls for the agency to resume “timely and public” reporting of worker fatalities on the OSHA website.

On June 28, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies – the last of its 12 appropriations bills for FY 2019 that have been sent to the full legislative body.

The Senate passed a “minibus” on June 25 that combined three of those 12 bills. The faster pace than in previous years could mean a better chance that agencies might have their budgets in place before FY 2019 begins Oct. 1.

If this latest bill is passed in its current form, the Senate would allocate $556.8 million in discretionary funding to OSHA – $4 million more than in FY 2018 and about $7.8 million more than the administration’s proposed budget. The House, meanwhile, has allocated $545.3 million to the agency.

Another difference – for the second straight fiscal year – is that the Senate bill proposes about $10.5 million for the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. The House bill allocates no funds to that program, in line with the administration’s request to eliminate it. The program avoided the chopping block in the FY 2018 omnibus.

The Senate bill also proposes at least $3.5 million for OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs.

In an accompanying report that summarizes the “priorities and considerations of the committee in developing this bill,” the committee instructs OSHA to resume “timely” online posting of on-the-job deaths – whether or not the agency issues a citation.

“Making this information and data publicly available furthers OSHA’s mission by ensuring businesses, workers and the public know about and have access to timely and complete information on workplace safety, including enforcement actions, injuries, illnesses and deaths,” the report states.

In related budget news, the Mine Safety and Health Administration would receive $373.8 million for FY 2019, matching its FY 2018 funding. The administration proposed $375.9 million, and the House is allocating $367.6 million in its bill. The House Appropriations Committee has yet to approve those safety agency budgets after postponing a scheduled markup on June 26.

The Senate appropriations bill has NIOSH in line for $335.3 million, $100,000 more than in FY 2018. The House bill allocates $335.2 million. The administration proposed to give the agency only $200 million and move it to the National Institutes of Health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Senate and House bills would keep NIOSH under CDC.

Overall, the Senate appropriations bill gives $12.1 billion to the Department of Labor – $92 million less than in FY 2018, and virtually identical to the amount in the House bill.

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