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Workers Threatened by Decline in OSHA Budget, Enforcement Activity

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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-25-08 10:47 PM
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Workers Threatened by Decline in OSHA Budget, Enforcement Activity

Published: 01/23/2008

This article is the first in a series titled, Bankrupting Government: How a Decades-Long Campaign against Federal Spending Has Undermined Public Protections

The consolidated appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in December 2007 cuts the budget of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for Fiscal Year 2008. OSHA, like many other federal agencies, already faces budget constraints that make it more difficult for the agency to achieve its mission. Over the past three decades, OSHA's budget, staffing levels, and inspection activity have dropped while the American workforce has grown and new hazards have emerged.

In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), creating OSHA. OSHA is responsible for assuring the safety and health of America's workforce, primarily by setting workplace safety standards through regulation and enforcing those standards.

Long-term trends
By the end of the Carter administration, OSHA was up and running and operating at resource levels that would turn out to be 20-year highs. In 1982, OSHA's budget was cut sharply and remained near those levels throughout the Reagan administration. OSHA's budget rebounded slightly during the George H.W. Bush administration but fell again in FY 1993. The budget grew during the last years of the Clinton administration and, by FY 2001, reached an all-time high. (See Graph 1a.) Since then, OSHA's budget has been cut every year when adjusted for inflation. (See Graph 1b.)

As OSHA's budget has ebbed and flowed, so too has its staffing level. In FY 1980, OSHA's staffing level hit its peak 2,950. For FY 2006, OSHA had a staff of only 2,092, the second-lowest level in 30 years. (See Graph 2.) In 1980, OSHA had approximately three staff members for every 100,000 American workers. For FY 2006, staffing levels had been cut in half for every 100,000 American workers to only 1.5 staff members.

However, looking at overall appropriations and staffing does not provide adequate insight into whether OSHA is fulfilling its mission to protect American workers. The bulk of OSHA's work is in enforcement. The federal budget for federal and state enforcement activity has declined more sharply over time than the overall OSHA budget. Subsequently, the number of workplace inspections conducted by both OSHA and state agencies has fallen dramatically.

FULL story at link.

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