It’s all good, at least on paper, for OSHA as the Obama Administration yesterday proposed raising the agency’s FY12 budget from $559 million to $583 million. The proposed increase came while the overall Department of Labor budget was cut 5.4 percent.

OSHA’s FY12 budgets calls for hiring 25 additional inspectors, 45 whistleblower investigators, $2.4 million to conduct research in support of an injury and illness prevention program rule (I2P2) which agency chief Dr. David Michaels calls the agency’s number one priority, continuing to fund the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), increasing training grant funds, increasing funding of state OSHA programs, and a 37 percent increase in funding for standards-setting.

The budget calls for OSHA to issue a final rule by October 31, 2011 (FY11) revising the hazard communication standard to align it with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and issue a proposed rule on silica exposures. In FY12, OSHA is to issue final rules on confined space in construction and walking/working surfaces, and proposed requirements for combustible dust, infectious diseases, beryllium and I2P2.

That kind of standards-setting activity would be unprecedented in a presidential election year, when reg agencies are told by the White House to tone it down and stay out of the news. Actually, it would be unprecedented for any year. In the past decade OSHA has issued only a handful of new regulations.

That won’t stop House Republicans from chopping away at the Obama OSHA budget, taking away most everything the administration put in, save for VPP funding and consultative services funding. The Democratic-controlled Senate will then, if history is a marker, restore most of the administration’s monies, and the subsequent House-Senate reconciliation conference committee will come close to splitting the difference between the two OSHA budget bills.