The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) is advocating for a larger annual appropriation for OSHA, within the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill for fiscal year 2002.
AIHA President Steven P. Levine, Ph.D., CIH, wrote a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, stating that "no agency of the U.S. government has the power to do as much good for the health and safety of the American worker as does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration."
He cited the development of new chemicals, materials, processes and equipment that can compromise worker safety.
The letter further states, "An increase of only $400,000 in a $426 million budget is not, in our view, an adequate amount to continue the downward trend of occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities."
AIHA cited several important issues that OSHA must address in the coming year and that speak to increased funding. According to the letter to Specter:
- The standard-setting process is broken. The agency should consider this a number one priority and bring together all stakeholders to develop a process that is acceptable and will bring voluntary standards into the 21st century.
- It is time for the agency to take another look at partnerships with the private sector in providing businesses incentives when utilizing competent and qualified third parties for workplace reviews.
- Increased training is needed for agency personnel involved in health and safety standards. Professional certification is needed to keep agency personnel on par with occupational health and safety professionals in the private sector.
- More and more jobs are being moved to small- and medium-size businesses and to the service economy. A method to assure the health and safety of workers that does not burden small and medium businesses must be found. New approaches must be found for the 21st century.
- Guidelines and training materials that can complement enforcement actions and regulations are needed. Additional appropriations to develop these consensus guidelines will be required, as well as appropriations to aid small and medium enterprises in implementation of these guidelines.
- The agency must continue the task of developing a solution to the ergonomics problems facing thousands of workers.
Specifically, AIHA is concerned about the proposed reduction in funding for state programs, technical support, safety and health standards and training grants.
"These specific areas within OSHA are most important as we move forward in protecting workers," Levine said in the letter. "AIHA believes it would be most appropriate if such programs were at least provided with an increase equivalent to the consumer price index."
Levine concluded by recommending that the subcommittee increase OSHA''s proposed budget and that the agency be provided "with the necessary additional resources to continue protecting the American workforce."
In addition to the $426 million for the agency, 94 full-time employees from OSHA''s 2,386 total workforce in this year''s budget.
by Virginia Sutcliffe