The Republican spending bill being debated on the House floor this week will slash health and safety inspections and shut down OSHA’s popular website, Democrats on the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee said today in a statement. Total OSHA spending cuts for the current fiscal year (FY11) would amount to 18 percent of the agency’s funding, or $99 million dollars.
“The Republican spending bill doesn’t just trim OSHA’s budget, it absolutely cripples the agency, needlessly jeopardizing safety standards and endangering American workers,” said U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the subcommittee. “OSHA needs the resources to carry out its mission, protect workers, and help businesses at the same time.”
The spending cuts would roll back funding levels to 2004 levels for OSHA, reduce staff by more than 415 people, including 200 inspectors and 17 whistleblower investigators.
As a result there would be approximately 8,000 less workplace hazard inspections and 740 fewer whistleblower discrimination investigations, according to the statement.
The Republican spending bill would also cut OSHA’s ability to respond to dangerous workplace conditions by cutting resources for issuing safety standards, like those to prevent combustible industrial dust explosions.
The Republican spending bill would eliminate the ability of the agency to find trends like combustible dust explosions and respond to dangerous conditions. No more data would be collected on workplace health and safety trends by OSHA.
OSHA’s website would be eliminated, according to the statement.
Safety for workers in mine would be less secure by reducing the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) budget to the levels from the 2010 fiscal year, according to the Democrats’ statement. Without additional funds, MSHA would have to lay off staff recently hired to work on backlog reduction in July 2011, and pull back on efforts to improve operations in West Virginia and purchase mine emergency response equipment, according to the statement.
Experts predict House Republicans plan even deeper cuts in OSHA spending for FY12. Earlier this week President Obama proposed a four percent increase in OSHA spending for FY12.
House Republican spending cuts are largely a symbolic act of anti-regulatory philosophy. In the system of U.S. federal government checks and balances, the Senate, controlled by Democrats, are in the position of damage control, limiting the ability of the House GOP to turn its ideology into reality.
Still, the aggressiveness of the attacks on OSHA put a dark cloud over the agency’s activity in the next 18-24 months, or until the 2012 presidential election.