Bush Proposes FY 2007 Budget Increase for OSHA

President George W. Bush's budget proposal for fiscal year 2007 includes an $11.2 million increase for OSHA, which would give the department $483.7 million for the fiscal year.

Jonathan Snare, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said Feb. 6 that the request includes increases for federal enforcement, compliance assistance and safety and health statistics.

The budget also contains two major initiatives: Development of a new information system and expansion of outreach for Hispanic and other non-English speaking workers as well as for workers involved in the cleanup and recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast.

"Our goal is to continue to improving our efforts to help employers and employees reduce injuries, illness and fatalities on the job," Snare said.

OSHA plans to allocate $7.5 million to develop a new occupational safety and health information system (OIS) that will replace the agency's 15-year-old Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) to ensure accurate and timely information on all OSHA enforcement and compliance assistance programs. In addition, $2.6 million will be reserved for the creation of materials and compliance assistance information in Spanish and other languages so employers can communicate safety and health issues to workers who don't speak any English or who are at varying levels of literacy.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who held a separate press conference outlining President Bush's FY 2007 Labor Department budget and is of Asian descent commended the initiative given to reach out to the non-English speaking community.

"It is very important that these workers are informed of their safety rights," she said.

Budget Proposes to Nix Harwood Training Grant

The budget proposal also asked for the discontinuation of the Susan Harwood training grant, which aimed to provide training and education programs or to develop training materials for employers and workers on the recognition, avoidance and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces. Snare said that withdrawing the grants to give priority to the two new initiatives would not handicap OSHA's mission.

"Funding these two high-priority initiatives is critical, and we're confident that this decision will not compromise the high-quality training and assistance that OSHA provides employers and workers throughout many other programs," Snare said.

Bush also had proposed cutting the training grants program in 2005, but the money was reinstated by Congress.

Snare also said that workplace injuries and illnesses have fallen 40 percent and U.S. on-the-job fatality rates have hit historic lows an optimistic statistic shadowed by the recent mining tragedies in West Virginia. He emphasized that although progress is being made, more can be done.

As a result, OSHA said it has planned 37,700 workplace inspections throughout the year, the same goal as it has for 2006, and said it will continue to focus its resources on workplaces and industries with high rates of injuries and illnesses.

"At the end of the day, we want to see everyone return home safe and whole, and we're conscious that every dollar we spend needs to be devoted to this goal," Snare said.

The 2007 budget proposal includes $179.9 million for federal enforcement, an increase of $7.4 million from 2006. The proposal also calls for the preservation of the 2,173 full-time OSHA employees.

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