President Barack Obama should veto the proposed fiscal year 2016 funding cuts to OSHA and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), said Public Citizen, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and 74 worker safety, labor, good government, public health, environmental and community groups. Combined, the 76 groups represent more than 6.4 million U.S. members and supporters

Versions of the bill in both chambers of Congress contain funding cuts targeting OSHA and MSHA, as well as poison pill policy riders that would put American workers at further risk of death and injury. The U.S. Senate bill (S. 1695) would cut each agency’s funding by approximately $19 million, while the U.S. House bill (H.R. 3020) would cut OSHA funding by 3 percent.

Once a century

“These are devastating cuts that will make it harder to protect workers exposed to dangerous hazards on the job,” said Mary Vogel, executive director of National COSH. “Today, there is only enough capacity for the average workplace to see an inspector once a century thanks to low staffing and incessantly inadequate budgets. It’s unacceptable that Congress is trying to make the problem even worse.”

Each year 4,500 workers are killed on the job. Over 3 million workers suffer serious occupational injuries, and 50,000 die of occupational illnesses attributable to workplace exposure to hazardous substances. The cost of job injuries and illnesses to the American economy is estimated at $250 billion to $360 billion a year.

Training program would be cut

Language added to the House bill committee report would defund OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations to train employees and employers on the recognition, avoidance and prevention of health and safety hazards in their workplaces. The program targets audiences who might not otherwise receive training, including small business workers and employers, hard-to-reach or low-literacy workers, and workers in vulnerable and high-hazard industries. Since 1978, over 1.8 million workers have been trained through this program.

“If the proposed budget cuts are enacted, we will undoubtedly lose the worker safety and health improvements we've made over the years, as well as the opportunity for new achievements,” said Susan Harley, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Also, if the harmful policy riders are included in the bill, workers will face more injuries and deaths, and Americans will face higher economic and social costs in the long run. It’s far past time for our government to live up to its promise to ensure all workers are safe on the job.”

Read the letter to President Obama.