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OSHA's budget, October 2001

The issue

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 Congress rescinded the ergonomics standard but the other two standards are on track.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's position

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.

(October 2001)


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