Advocacy group says proposal to cut OSHA budget ‘bends facts’

Washington – Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) proposal to cut more than $70 million from OSHA’s current budget received harsh criticism from a public advocacy group.

Released July 18, Coburn’s report suggested OSHA “failed” in its commitment to additional workplace inspections, reducing the number of inspections to 38,507 in FY 2010 from 38,591 in fiscal year 2008 despite additional funding over the past three years.

The senator’s report called for additional emphasis on voluntary compliance programs, saying the programs had a “proven track record of success, are cost efficient, and cover more places of employment.” Coburn also suggested terminating the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, describing it as “duplicative” to other government programs.

Public Citizen, a Washington-based advocacy group, took issue with Coburn’s suggestions. In an Aug. 1 press release, the group pointed to OSHA’s official statistics showing that federal inspections increased by 6 percent in the time period Coburn referenced. “Sen. Coburn’s proposal would weaken OSHA and put workers’ lives in danger,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The report bends facts to conform to an anti-regulatory bent.”

The group also cited a Government Accountability Office report that stated compliance programs have never been properly evaluated, and said the training grant program’s cost is only 2 percent of the agency’s budget and one of the few sources for worker safety and health education.

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