Will the Federal Government Regulate Safety in N.C.?

Following closely on the announcement by Vermont Gov. James Douglas that he wants federal OSHA to take over enforcement of occupational safety and health regulations for private companies in his state, North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry warned state business leaders budget cuts could force the same event in North Carolina.

Under an agreement with federal OSHA, North Carolina must have at least 64 safety compliance officers and 50 health officers. If the state falls below those numbers, then it is out of compliance with the federal government and could face federal takeover of its program.

Although the state currently has funding for 120 safety and health compliance officers, Berry warned business leaders attending the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry's 2003 legislative conference, "If there's any serious level of cuts in North Carolina, we may fall out of compliance."

Last year's N.C. Department of Labor budget was almost $14 million, but the state budget office has asked for a 5 percent permanent cut starting July 1. Berry, who does not want the federal government to take over North Carolina's enforcement program, plans to fight to keep funding levels stable for the Safety and Health Division. That could mean, however, that other divisions within the Department of Labor could suffer.

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