Federal agencies

House Appropriations Committee approves large funding increases for OSHA, MSHA

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Photo: House Appropriations Committee

Washington — The House Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill that would give sizable boosts to OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, during a markup May 8.

The committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill allocates more than $660.9 million for OSHA in fiscal year 2020 – around $103 million more than the Trump administration’s proposed budget for the agency, released March 11. The administration’s proposal slates OSHA for $300,000 more than its $557.2 million FY 2019 budget.

The budget proposal also includes $12.7 million for the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which the administration is seeking to eliminate for the third consecutive fiscal year. Even with Republicans controlling both chambers the past two fiscal years, Congress hasn’t complied, allocating a little more than $10.5 million for the program in FY 2019.

The Department of Labor wants to “maximize flexibility and use alternative methods to develop and distribute training materials to reach the broadest possible audience” in lieu of the grants, the department’s budget summary states.

Meanwhile, the Mine Safety and Health Administration would receive almost $417.3 million – around $41.3 million more than the administration’s proposal. The agency had a $373.8 million budget in FY 2019. NIOSH would get a relatively modest $10 million boost to its FY 2019 budget with the House’s proposal of $346.3 million, which is $156 million more than the administration requested.

Overall, the proposed budget would give more than $13.3 billion to DOL – around $1.2 billion more than in FY 2019 and $2.4 billion more than the administration’s proposal.

Inside the numbers

The bill’s report details each agency’s FY 2020 proposed budget. For OSHA, its largest increase would be to federal enforcement, which is slated for nearly $246.4 million – about $37.4 million more than in FY 2019.

The committee expressed its concern about the record-low number of compliance safety and health officers at the agency – 875 were on staff as of Jan. 1, according to a National Employment Law Project data brief published March 14. If enacted, the bill would direct OSHA to submit to the committee quarterly reports on new hiring and personnel numbers, including current staffing levels and vacancies.

The committee’s other recommendations to OSHA include an update to the occupational noise standard, a withdrawal of proposed changes to ancillary provisions in the beryllium standards for the shipyard and construction industries, and further movement on a workplace violence standard.

 

Additionally, the House proposes increases of nearly $20.5 million to compliance assistance and almost $20.9 million to OSHA State Plans. It also proposes capping Voluntary Protection Programs spending at $3.5 million.

The House is seeking to keep MSHA’s coal and metal/nonmetal enforcement separate because of “the differences in complex safety and health issues between both categories of inspections.” The administration proposed to combine the two to save $273,000.

The bill will next need approval from the full House, and, at press time, the Senate had yet to weigh in with its proposed budget numbers.

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