NIOSH and Training Could Face Cruelest Budget Cuts of All

NIOSH is facing the largest proportional budget cut of all the occupational safety and health agencies in the proposed FY 2003 budget, and OSHA's training programs could take a significant hit as well.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is facing the largest proportional budget cut of all the occupational safety and health agencies in the federal government.

President George Bush, in his proposed fiscal year 2003 budget, reduced NIOSH funding by 10 percent, a loss of over $28 million from its current funding level of $276.5 million. Bush proposed $258 million for the agency. Although not as severe, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is looking at a budget cut as well, about $4 million from its current budget of $267.9 million.

At a recent press conference, John Henshaw, administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), announced that the president is asking for $437 million for OSHA, approximately 1 percent less than its current budget. (See related article "OSHA''s 2003 Budget: Henshaw Vows To Do More With Less.")

How much any of the funding for NIOSH, MSHA and OSHA actually will be cut remains to be seen. Congress has traditionally given OSHA, for example, considerably more money than the president''s budget request. Congress added $18 million to the president''s FY 2002 budget.

In the FY 2003 budget request, training grants took the biggest hit in the FY 2003 OSHA budget, losing $7.2 million. Most of that decrease comes from the elimination of the Susan Harwood grants program, which funded safety training in states and local communities, often through programs sponsored by labor unions.

Peg Seminario, safety and health director for the AFL-CIO, called the cut to training grants, "an illustration of how antiworker this administration is." She said the training program was the only one at OSHA that is primarily focused on helping workers "and it''s taking the biggest hit proportionally and the biggest hit overall."

Seminario called the proposed cuts "particularly troubling," given that many of the grants issued by the training program are used to target vulnerable workers, those who are non-English-speaking or immigrants and employees in high risk industries.

by Sandy Smith (ssmith@penton.com)

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