The president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) sent Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, a letter last week, asking Congress to take a hard look at the budget proposed for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by the Bush administration.
In his letter, Henry B. Lick, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, ROH, pointed out that OSHA, like many other public and private entities, leveraged its resources to assist in the rescue and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center.
OSHA employees throughout the U.S. conducted risk assessment and monitoring at the site, taking more than 4,450 air and bulk samples for asbestos, silica, lead, heavy metals and carbon monoxide. The agency also conducted an initial assessment of the WTC site within 24 hours of the attack to identify hazards and potential health and safety risks to workers involved in the recovery, and continues to provide around-the-clock monitoring of the site to identify and alert workers to safety and health hazards. OSHA distributed more than 113,500 respirators and initiated an on-going respiratory protection program that generated private-sector donations of resources and equipment, noted Lick.
Since the beginning of his tenure, OSHA Administrator John Henshaw has underscored several main components essential to a strong and effective OSHA, said Lick. Those goals include: professional certification of OSHA compliance officers; expanded compliance assistance, education and outreach; and additional opportunities for partnerships and emphasis on voluntary efforts. Given the limited number of compliance officers and consultants, added Lick, outreach and partnerships are the best ways to assist small business in improving the health and safety of their workers.
These goals require a commitment of financial resources in order to properly carry them out but the president''s FY 2003 budget request for OSHA shows a decrease in funding from the current $443 million in FY 2002 to a proposed $437 million in FY 2003.
"AIHA is concerned that any reduction in OSHA''s budget may negatively impact the implementation of the agency''s newly defined priorities for improving occupational safety and health and may diminish its long-standing trend of reducing occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities," wrote Lick.
"Over the past several years, Congress has recognized the importance of OSHA''s mission and has provided the agency with increased funds. While we are mindful that the administration''s FY03 budget reflects wartime priorities and affects domestic programs across-the-board, AIHA believes that OSHA should be provided with at least level funding, and perhaps an increase to carry out new initiatives."
He asked that as Congress begins deliberations on the FY 2003 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations legislation, that members "seriously consider the impact that workplace health and safety has on everyday life in the U.S.," adding, "We respectfully recommend that you increase the proposed budget for OSHA and provide the agency with the necessary additional resources to continue protecting the country''s workforce."
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])