“Our budget request reflects our commitment to help America ‘win the future’ by sustaining a competitive workforce and ensuring worker protections,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Our fiscal year 2012 request reflects what it will take to keep America’s workforce strong and innovative. It also makes responsible and reasonable cuts that are rooted in current economic realities and a continued focus on increased efficiency and effectiveness.”
In a Feb. 14 live Web chat, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and various DOL leaders, including OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels and MSHA Administrator Joseph Main, answered questions from more than 3,200 participants.
The OSHA budget requests an additional $6.4 million for safety and health standards. Of that amount, $2.4 million is earmarked for the agency’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule (I2P2), which Michaels continues to stress is the agency’s No. 1 priority.
The budget request also calls for a $7.7 million increase for OSHA’s federal enforcement, which would accommodate 25 additional full-time compliance safety and health officers.
Other OSHA Budget Highlights:
- State plans, which had not received cost-of-living adjustments in the decade prior to FY 2010, saw an increase of $1.5 million in the FY 2012 request. “The State Plan oversight process will press states to ensure appropriate training for its compliance officers where problems have been identified,” Michaels said during the chat.
- The whistleblower program was given its own budget activity and received an increase of nearly $6 million in the budget request, a move that would include 45 additional full-time employees for the agency’s 21 whistleblower programs. “We recently completed an internal evaluation of the whistleblower program and are reviewing recommendations to improve oversight and management of the program,” Michaels said.
- Compliance-assisted training grants also saw an increase of about $1.25 million for Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which Michaels said “will continue to strengthen OSHA’s outreach effort and provide funding to support innovative training techniques using modern technology such as computers, cell phones, and social networking to reach more workers more effectively, both in the classroom and remotely.” Another $1 million was requested for on-site consultation programs for small businesses in high-hazard industries.
- Michaels also pointed out that VPP will continue to be funded as part of the federal compliance assistance budget activity. The agency is no longer seeking alternative funding options for VPP.
The $384 million budget request for MSHA represents a nearly $27 million increase over the FY 2010 enacted level of $357 million.
“The President’s budget for FY 2012 requests increased funding in the coal and metal and non-metal enforcement program areas, which includes additional funding for respirable dust sampling; provides funding to improve mine emergency response operations; and support the agency’s regulatory program,” Main said during the live chat.
Additional funds were requested to help reduce the large case backlog at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. The current backlog creates an unacceptable delay in holding bad-actor operators accountable for threatening the health and safety of America’s miners, DOL said.
The budget also requests an increase of more than 30 full-time equivalent MSHA employees, “including additional enforcement personnel, health specialists, regulatory staff, conference litigation representatives and other personnel,” Main said.
Solis said the DOL budget, which requests a total of $12.8 billion, takes “a balanced approach that makes tough but necessary choices.”