Capitol HillA trio of top occupational safety associations is urging Congress to “champion the safety and health of America’s workers” by supporting funding for OSHA and NIOSH, saving vital programs and blocking what it calls “troubling policy riders.”

In a Nov. 26 letter to Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and National Safety Council (NSC) thanked Harkin for including “stable” funding levels for the two agencies in the FY 2013 Senate Appropriations bill.

However, the ASSE’s Richard Pollock, AIHA’s Allan Fleeger and NSC’s Janet Froetscher requested that funding for two key NIOSH programs which have been threatened with elimination be preserved. NIOSH’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (AgFF) sector program and Education and Research Centers (ERC) “play an important role in preventing workplace injuries and deaths,” according to the letter. The agriculture, forestry and fishing industries have the highest fatality rates of any industry, with 580 deaths in 2010 – a 6% increase from 2009.

Established in 1990 in response to high fatality rates – at the behest of Congress – the AgFF now includes seven regional research centers and one national center to address children’s farm safety.

As for NIOSH’s ERCs – which have also found themselves at times on the budget-cutting chopping block – the letter notes that the nation’s aging occupational safety and workforce make ERCs “essential to training the next generation of professionals.” The 17 university-based ERCs support education and research in occupational health through academic degree programs and research opportunities. Currently, ERCs are responsible for almost half of post‐baccalaureate graduates entering occupational health and safety fields.

Additionally, Pollock, Fleeger and Froetscher raise a red flag about several House-proposed riders that they say would prevent OSHA and NIOSH from “from fully fulfilling their life-saving missions.”

The House FY 13 Labor‐HHS‐Education Appropriations bill policy riders would:

  • Prevent OSHA from promulgating a rule on injury and illness prevention programs
  • Prevent OSHA from enforcing parts of an agency standard on grain handling safety in silos
  • Prevent enforcement of a new OSHA residential construction fall protection directive
  • Terminate the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program

“Please continue to champion the safety and health of American workers by doing everything in your power to maintain stable funding levels for OSHA and NIOSH, prevent harmful policy riders, and ensure the continuation of the AgFF and ERC programs in conference on the FY 2013 Labor‐HHS‐Education Appropriations bill.”