The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging Congress to recognize the intrinsic value of occupational safety and health to the American public by increasing the funding for specific federal agencies during the current appropriations process.
In a May 15 letter sent by ASSE President Frank H. Perry to Congressional members, Perry said ASSE supports increased funding for OSHA and NIOSH and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) because of their national focus on occupational safety and health.
"The work that these agencies do saves lives and reduces injuries," said Perry. "I can''t see why Congress would even think of cutting their budgets when the work they do supports every man, woman and child accross this country, and actually, throughout the world."
One of the signifiant issues in Congress, Perry noted, regarding this year''s OSHA budget will be whether to shift money away from enforcement and federal compliance assistance to state consultation.
ASSE believes that the current balance between enforcement and consultation is good public policy and should should be maintained. In fact, the injury and illness rate reductions over the last six years are a testament to that, Perry noted.
"We have found that there have been a number of consultation program administrators pointing out that without credible enforcement there will be less incentive for employers to use consultative services in either the public or private sector," said Perry.
"ASSE believes that potential amendments which shift employees and resources away from federal OSHA to state consultation programs is just not good policy. The current balance maintains the national focus on occupational safety and health, and encourages increased usage of on-staff safety and health professionals in addition to both private and public sector consultation services."
ASSE also believes that maintaining the existing balance would assist OSHA in improving its image from that of workplace safety policeman to a full service agency.
ASSE believes that the inequity involving National Institute of Occupatioanl Safety and Health (NIOSH) funding should be corrected.
Perry noted that the NIOSH Safety Research Division needs to be appropriately funded to reach its key objective, to research effective and efficient ways to reduce occupational fatalities and injuries.
Increasing NIOSH''s funding will enhance the country''s ability to guide occupational safety and health research over the next decade and improve worker protection in an efficient and effective manner, Perry wrote.
by Virginia Sutcliffe