Should the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) annual budget
be frozen or cut at its current level and reprogrammed to place a greater emphasis
on outreach, consultation and partnerships?
Why it's important
The best way to determine an agency's priorities is to track its annual budget and
where it spends money. The Clinton administration rationalized OSHA's requests for
more money by citing the need to reinvent the agency. In Clinton's last budget from
1997 to 2001, funding for OSHA increased by more than $100 million. Annual increases
were as follows: OSHA received $325 million in appropriations during the 1997 fiscal
year, $336 million during the 1998 fiscal year, $353 million during the 1999 fiscal
year, $388 million during the 2000 fiscal year and $426 million during the 2001
fiscal year. OSHA dedicated most of the additional funding to enforcement and new
regulations in other words, business as usual.
By 2001, OSHA had hired hundreds of additional inspectors and was poised to subject
businesses to three of the most massive regulatory regimes ever: the ergonomics
standard, safety and health program standard and new record-keeping standard. Congress
rescinded the ergonomics standard but the other two standards are on track. Most
of the record-keeping rule will go into effect Jan. 1, 2002.
Despite OSHA's rhetoric about reinventing itself and working cooperatively with
businesses, only a quarter of OSHA's budget was dedicated to compliance assistance
in the past five years. This shows a penchant for the old style of OSHA's management,
which can be summed up as more regulations, inspections and citations.
NRCA is committed to safety. It established the Roofing Industry Partnership Program
for Safety and Health with OSHA in 1996 to recognize and reward contractors who
set high measures for safety and health. However, while OSHA touted such programs
to Congress as evidence that it had reinvented itself, it quietly funneled most
of its budget to enforcement and new regulations. Consequently, OSHA should not
receive positive reinforcement with a raise from Congress. Its budget should be
frozen or even cut. Furthermore, OSHA should be directed to reprogram its budget
to place greater emphasis on outreach, consultation and partnerships.
The other side
Proponents of OSHA support it as it currently operates and believe businesses do
not care about workers and will only improve workplace safety in response to more
regulation and enforcement.