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ERCs, AFF program could be eliminated

NIOSHAs they have in the past, two key programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) once again find themselves on President Obama's budget chopping block.

The president has recommended cutting all funding for the Education and Research Centers (ERCs) as well as the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing program (AFF) to accommodate $46.9 million in cuts to NIOSH's proposed fy 2013 budget.

Both the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the American Society of Safety Engineers have voiced strong opposition to the president's previous efforts to eliminate these programs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of fatalities and injuries consistently show that the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries are among the most dangerous industries for workers. The ASSE pointed out that the American farmer is eight times more likely to die on the job that the average worker, and that ag-related fatalities frequently result in farms going out of business.

Eliminating the AFF program would end NIOSH’s rollover protective structure (ROPS) tractor retrofit program which helps farmers increase safety on their farms. The AFF also works in forestry and fishing on pesticide exposure, agricultural surveillance, ‘smart clothing’ for loggers and forest workers, and improving vessel stability.

ERCs provide industrial hygiene, occupational health nursing, occupational medicine, and occupational safetytraining for many occupational safety and health professionals.

The AIHA warned last March that eliminating the ERCS and AFF program would adversely affect worker safety and health "for years to come."

The total of $475.4 million proposed for NIOSH for fy 2013 includes $55.4 million in mandatory funding for CDC's role in the Energy Illness Compensation Program and $170.6 mill in mandatory funding for the World Trade Center Health Program.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration budget would remain about the same in 2013 ($375 million compared to $374 million, while the Environmental Protection Agency stands to lose $105 million, with a total budget of $8.344 billion.

Aaron K. Trippler, AIHA Government Affairs Director, said he doubts that Congressional budget debates will be concluded in time for the budget to actually be in place by the start of the fiscal year -- October 1, 2012.

Instead, Trippler predicted that Congress will pass a continuing resolution to allow spending at the current level to continue until after the November election. 

The budget proposal for the MSHA is close to fy 2012 levels (375 mill compared to 374 mill). The EPA budget stands to take a $105 mill cut from fy 2012, with a total budget of $8.344 billion.

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