DOL 2011 Budget Request Includes OSHA Increase, Focus on Enforcement

On Feb. 1, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis outlined President Obama’s FY 2011 budget request for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which is built around the vision of “good jobs for everyone” and includes a $14 million proposed increase for OSHA

In total, the FY 2011 DOL budget requests $117 billion, with the majority to be used for unemployment insurance benefits for displaced workers and federal workers’ compensation. DOL’s discretionary request of $14.0 billion overall includes $1.7 billion for worker protection programs, a 4 percent increase over the prior year’s budget.

The budget asks for $573 million for OSHA, which is $14 million more than that agency received in FY 2010. According to Solis, this budget request builds on the 2010 budget policy of returning worker protection programs to FY 2001 staffing levels after years of decline.

“Today's budget affirms this administration's strong commitment to vigorous enforcement,” said Solis during a Feb. 1 live Web chat. “With the largest fine in OSHA’s history and more egregious cases, we are sending a strong message throughout industry that we will not tolerate the endangerment of workers. We will continue those efforts with a number of new and innovative enforcement initiatives in the coming year.”

The FY 2010 budget funded 100 new OSHA inspectors. The FY 2011 proposes to hire more inspectors, as well as shifting current inspectors to enforcement.

“With this budget we will hire 25 additional inspectors, and shift 35 who are presently doing compliance assistance to enforcement activities,” said OSHA Administrator David Michaels during the Web chat. “With these additional staff we will be able to conduct more targeted inspections and National and Local Emphasis Programs.”

Reduced VPP Funding

Solis also addressed OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) during the live Web chat. Last year, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report identifying oversight and internal control problems with VPP. Solis explained that OSHA proposes to “significantly reduce direct federal funding” of VPP “while working closely with the Agency’s stakeholders both to identify and secure alternative forms of funding.”

“We think the Voluntary Protection Program is making a valuable contribution to workplace safety,” Solis said during the chat. “But we are facing some very difficult budget choices. We need to decide whether we will spend our limited resources on supporting those companies who really ‘get it,’ who are doing a great job at protecting their employees, or do we spend our scarce resources on companies that disregard workplace safety and allow workers to die in situations that could easily have been prevented.”

Michaels stressed during the live chat that OSHA will work with stakeholders “to identify new or alternative funding sources” for VPP.

“In the meantime, we will be shifting field inspection staff from VPP programs to enforcement activities because the need in that area is particularly great,” Michaels said. “We recognize that VPP companies do an excellent job; OSHA resources need to be focused on employers who don't understand the importance of protecting their workers, particularly small employers.”

Good Jobs

According to DOL, this budget launches innovative ways to prepare workers for 21st century jobs and makes new investments in programs that protect workers’ rights, safety and health in the new economy. It reaches out to diverse audiences to ensure that all people from all communities are included in the jobs of the future.

“The FY 2011 budget will help to make the vision of good jobs for everyone a reality for America’s workers,” said Solis. She defined “good jobs” as those that:

  • Can support a family by increasing incomes;
  • Offer fair compensation;
  • Narrow the wage gap;
  • Allow for work-life flexibility;
  • Promote safe and healthy workplaces;
  • Give workers a voice;
  • Foster fair working conditions in the global marketplace;
  • Are sustainable and innovative, such as green jobs, providing opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge for the jobs of the future; and
  • Help restore the middle class.

“This budget invests in innovation and reform that will play a critically important role in building long-term economic security for workers,” said Solis. “At the same time, the budget reflects our commitment to fiscal responsibility, investing in what works and carefully evaluating our programs to make sure that we obtain results that produce good jobs.”

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