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Federal OSH agencies cope with shutdown in different ways

AIHA's Trippler: More crises are expected

As the U.S. government remains locked in a stalemate – with a Pew poll showing that the GOP is getting most of the blame for the shutdown – disapproval of all politicians has hit an all-time low, with Congress earning an approval rating of only ten percent.

CongressWho are these people?

“That is almost hard to believe,” said Aaron Trippler, Government Affairs Director for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). “Not that the rating is so low – but who are these one out of ten individuals who believe Congress is doing a good job?

Trippler said occupational safety and health will be among the things negatively affected by the government shutdown.

At the DOL, OSHA furloughed 90 percent of its employees, declaring only 230 of its 2,235 staffers as “essential.” The agency announced that it will continue to enforce imminent danger situations and will respond to emergencies and safety and health complaints.

Regional OSHA offices will remain open, with very limited staff. Most state OSH agencies have indicated it is business as usual.

OSHA cuts more than MSHA

“At (Mining Safety & Health Administration) MSHA things aren’t quite as bad,” noted Trippler, in his monthly Happenings on the Hill report to AIHA members. “MSHA decided to keep 41 percent of its workforce on the job, raising an interesting question as to why OSHA felt it necessary to cut 90 percent of its employees while MSHA cut only 59 percent.”

NIOSH chief Dr. John Howard has said that the shutdown would not likely have a significant affect on his agency, because its core mission of research is long-term in nature.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the White House cut its staff from 40 to 2.

Trippler has heard people say that this reduction would bring the federal rulemaking process to a standstill.

“Not sure it could become any more stationary than it already is!” he said.

Hang on for the ride!

As for when and how the federal government might resume operations, the government-savvy Trippler can offer no predictions.

“What’s even more frustrating is that more crises are expected,” he said. “Why? Because this budget debate isn’t even a debate over the FY14 budget but whether or not to fund the government for a short 8-12 weeks and then the problem returns.

“Plus, the government will reach its debt limit by October 17. Hang on for the ride!”

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