Heritage Foundation Suggests Changes For MSHA

A Heritage Foundation analyst believes federal lawmakers should "overhaul its many rules, programs and procedures," including the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank group, said the Senate "did the Department of Labor (DOL) one good turn when it approved Elaine Chao as secretary of labor." But Heritage Foundation analyst Mark Wilson, a former senior economist at DOL, believes federal lawmakers can do another by "overhauling its many rules, programs and procedures."

Wilson''s book, "A Budget for America," provides department-by-department budget recommendations for Congress and the Bush Administration.

One of the departments Wilson analyzes is the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

"MSHA should be restructured into an office within OSHA, modeled after OSHA''s Construction Safety Office," Wilson said in his book. "Phase out the MSHA review Commission and turn its duties over to the OSHA Review Commission. Reduce total funding by 15 percent over three years."

Wilson''s rationale behind the restructuring is that both the number of workers involved in mining and the injuries associated with it have declined in recent years, calling into question whether there is any rationale for a separate agency.

"MSHA is funded at $228 million in FY 2000 and has more than 2,300 employees, about 920 of whom are inspectors. According to government sources, these numbers translate into a ratio of about one inspector for every four coal mines and every 41 metal/nonmetal mines," wrote Wilson. "In contrast, OSHA received $382 million in FY 2000 and has around 1,240 inspectors enforcing health and safety standards in more than 4 million non-mining worksites."

Wilson believes merging MSHA into OSHA would reduce administrative costs without diminishing workplace health and safety.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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