Safety advocates are hoping to hear about stronger worker protections today when Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta testifies on the FY 2018 federal budget before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
“Today’s hearing is a chance for senators to ask tough questions and get real answers about protecting American workers,” said National COSH co-executive director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “Occupational injuries cost U.S. employers more than $250 billion a year – and they can cost workers their very lives. It makes no sense to cut back on programs that can reduce or eliminate workplace hazards.”
“We need stronger – not weaker – protections and enforcement in our workplaces,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “Cutting back on inspections and training puts workers at greater risk of getting sick, getting injured or even getting killed on the job.”
National COSH is critical of the Department of Labor’s FY 2018 budget request – made by Acosta - because it:
- Projects 2,300 fewer inspections of U.S. workplaces by OSHA
- Cuts $6 million for safety inspections from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration
- Eliminates the successful Susan Harwood training grants, which have a proven track record of helping workers in dangerous industries avoid workplace hazards that can lead to illnesses, injuries and fatalities.
Outside the DOL budget, other key agencies tasked with protecting workers and communities face severe cutbacks, including elimination of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and a 40 percent cutback – $139 million – at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Across the U.S., more than 4,500 U.S. workers die each year from traumatic events in the workplace, such as falls from a height, drowning in trenches, being crushed by machinery and roadway collisions. In addition, an estimated 95,000 U.S. workers die each year from long-term occupational exposures linked to cancer, lung disease, heart disease and other fatal conditions.
A National COSH petition, urging members of Congress to provide full funding for worker safety programs, is available online at http://tinyurl.com/Ricardo-06-2017. The petition honors Ricardo Oliveira, a 22-year old worker who died on a Massachusetts construction site in 2016.
National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.