AIHA Urges Congress to Increase OSHA Funding

OSHA's funding needs may be affected in future by additional worker safety oversight, according to association president.

Citing the importance of workplace health and safety issues on everyday life in America, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has recommended that Congress grant President Clinton''s requested Fiscal Year 2001 budget increase for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In a letter last week to members of the House and Senate appropriations committees, AIHA President James R. Thornton asked the committees to approve the FY 2001 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education spending bill with the $44.4 million OSHA budget increase left intact. Clinton has recommended an additional amount, which would bring OSHA''s total annual budget to $426 million.

Besides age-old job hazards, many of the new processes, chemicals, materials and technologies introduced constantly in the workplace may pose risks to workers. AIHA recognizes the vital role that OSHA plays in protecting the health of the American worker.

In addition to meeting the needs of the nation''s work force, Thornton noted that OSHA may be facing expansion of its responsibilities in at least two areas: by gaining jurisdiction over external regulation of Department of Energy facilities and by working with the Federal Aviation Administration to improve the health and safety of airline employees. If OSHA is directed to provide regulatory oversight in either of these areas, its budget must be increased or other programs will suffer.

Also of concern are repeated requests to divert portions of OSHA''s requested budget increase to provide more state consultation funding. While AIHA heartily supports additional funding for state programs, the association requests that Congress appropriate more funds for them, not to decrease or divert the money needed for national-level programs.

"We are sure you will agree that no other agency of the U.S. government has the power to do as much good for the health and safety of the American worker as does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration," Thornton wrote.

The FY 2001 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill, which contains the OSHA appropriations request, will be up for debate shortly.

by Todd Nighswonger

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