Outreach Activities Win Big Increase in New OSHA Budget

The Clinton Administration has proposed $44.4 million in additional money for OSHA in fiscal year 2001.

The Clinton Administration has proposed $44.4 million in additional money for OSHA in fiscal year 2001, 11.6 percent more than the $381.6 million Congress appropriated for the current year. The final budget request of the Clinton presidency was announced at a press briefing in Washington on Monday.

The biggest increase -- both in percentage terms and total dollars -- is in the category of federal compliance assistance.

Here there is nearly $13 million in new money for expanded outreach activities, an almost 24 percent increase over this year that brings the current budget request to $67.1 million.

Federal enforcement still receives by far the most money in OSHA's budget.

It got $12.1 million in additional funding, an 8.6 percent increase from this year's $141 million allocation.

Almost half of the increase will be used to add 63 new compliance officers to the agency's current force of 1,079 inspectors.

According to OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress, the large amount of new money for compliance assistance will enable OSHA to achieve a better balance between its outreach activities and its enforcement endeavors.

"The increase will improve our ability to provide expertise and services to both employers and employees," said Jeffress.

Nearly $3.4 million of the new money for OSHA's outreach effort will be used to hire 35 additional compliance assistance specialists, achieving the agency's goal of staffing each Federal OSHA area office with one specialist whose only job is to assist businesses that request help.

The increase will also enable OSHA to provide an additional 3,200 free consultation visits to small businesses, raising the yearly total to 30,700.

There is also $3 million in new money for the agency's Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which enables nonprofit groups to conduct safety and health training in the workplace.

With an eye to OSHA's current battle over ergonomics rulemaking, the Administration included money to hire 10 employees to work on-site with businesses to provide ergonomics assistance, including helping companies set up voluntary ergonomics programs.

The last budget request of a lame-duck president usually faces an uncertain future on Capitol Hill. Given the stormy relationship between the Republican-controlled Congress and President Clinton, OSHA's final budget may be somewhat different than the current proposal.

Last year, however, despite all the partisan wrangling between GOP lawmakers and the president, OSHA's ultimate appropriation was only $6.5 million shy of Clinton's request -- a cut of less than 2 percent.

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