Foulke: Bush Budget Boosts OSHA's Mission

President George W. Bush has proposed a fiscal year 2008 budget of $490.3 million for OSHA, which the agency said includes an increase of nearly $18 million for federal enforcement and federal compliance assistance.

"The president's budget for the Department of Labor provides the resources the department needs to pursue its strategic goal of ensuring safe and healthful workplaces," OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. told reporters at a Feb. 5 budget briefing in Washington, D.C.

Foulke expressed confidence that the proposed budget would help the agency continue its "balanced approach" of multiple intervention strategies to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities on the job. OSHA has said that its three main strategies are enforcement; outreach, education and compliance assistance; and cooperative and voluntary programs.

"OSHA's budget reflects and supports this goal," Foulke said.

Budget Proposes $4.6 Million Increase for VPP

From the moment Foulke took on the position of OSHA administrator, he has said that he intends to enhance the agency's compliance assistance initiatives, one of them being OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). To this end, Foulke said, the agency is "proposing to increase resources [for VPP] … by more than $4.6 million."

"VPP recognizes exemplary work sites for their enhanced safety and health performance," Foulke said. "This translates into substantial benefits for both employers and employees, including significant reductions in injury and illness rates, which have proven to deliver millions of dollars in cost savings for participants."

In addition, the FY 2008 budget provides the agency with 13 additional full-time equivalent (FTEs) employees to expand the VPP program and it restores 40 FTEs that were not funded at the current budget level.

On the enforcement prong of OSHA's "balanced approach," the agency is projecting 37,700 federal inspections in FY 2008 – 1,200 more than FY 2007 – for a total of 89,700 state and federal inspections. Foulke noted that Bush's proposed budget will allow the agency to continue its Enhanced Enforcement Program, which focuses on employers with high rates of injuries and illnesses.

Training Grants Missing

Noticeably missing from the budget is any funding for safety and health training grants such as the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. The Susan Harwood program awards grants to nonprofit organizations to provide training and education programs for employers and workers on the recognition, avoidance and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces.

In reference to the Susan Harwood grants – which the Bush administration has been trying to cut out of the OSHA budget for the past several years – Foulke said: "We have not applied the 2007 Susan Harwood grants yet; we don't know if they will be there."

OSHA Touts Success of "Balanced Approach"

The agency used the budget proposal announcement as an occasion to plug its "balanced approach" of multiple strategies, which OSHA asserts has yielded a 19 percent reduction in workplace injury and illness rates since 2001.

"This is progress, but I know we can do better," Foulke said. "At the end of the day, all employees should return home from work safe and healthy."

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