"The significant increase in OSHA whistleblower funding will help the agency address persistent backlogs and heavy and increasing caseloads for its whistleblower investigators," OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels said in a Feb. 13 live web chat. "These increased resources are critical."
The budget justification added that OSHA "will have fully implemented recommendations from its top-to-bottom review of its whistleblower program, as well those made by GAO, for improving the effectiveness of the program" by FY 2013.
Tightening OSHA's Belt
The budget request also reveals plans to consolidate some of OSHA's regional offices and eliminate some positions. Under this proposal, OSHA will save $1.3 million and three full-time positions by consolidating offices in Regions 1 and 2 (currently Boston and New York); Regions 7 and 8 (currently Kansas City, Mo., and Denver); and Regions 9 and 10 (San Francisco and Seattle). At this time, the agency does not have additional details about which offices will be closed.
"In an attempt to save money, we are proposing to streamline agency operations in the regions similar to other government agencies," Michaels said in the web chat. "This is not expected to affect worker safety and health."
That $1.3 million decrease would bring OSHA's federal enforcement budget request to $207,075,000, which is a decrease of $677,604 from the FY 2012 enacted levels. "OSHA will direct its resources to the most dangerous worksites to protect workers and deter those employers who would put their employees' lives at risk," the budget justification stated. "This reengineering of the agency's targeting of enforcement resources is designed to address the priority performance strategy of reducing injuries and illnesses through enforcement."
OSHA's federal compliance assistance also takes a hit in the budget request: the budget justification includes a $2,482,000 decrease in federal compliance assistance and 33 fewer full-time compliance employees.
"OSHA is maintaining its emphasis on reaching out to vulnerable and hard to reach workers in high risk jobs, as well as small businesses," Michaels said during the web chat. "OSHA will continue its award-winning outreach efforts around such hazards as heat exposure, hearing protection and fall prevention. The cuts outlined in our FY 2013 budget request focus primarily on employer compliance assistance."
The budget request also calls for the elimination of the OSHA Data Initiative and the elimination of the Office of International Affairs to save additional funds – about $2.2 million and $1 million, respectively.
Solis: Budget Makes Responsible, Reasonable Cuts
"Our budget request focuses on programs that will help keep America's workforce strong and innovative, while providing needed worker protections," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "It also makes responsible and reasonable cuts that are rooted in current economic realities and a continued focus on increased efficiency and effectiveness."
Overall, the Department of Labor's (DOL) budget requests a total of $12 billion in discretionary funding. According to DOL, the budget invests in programs that help Americans find and keep jobs by providing training and employment opportunities for unemployed adults, dislocated workers, vulnerable communities and disadvantaged youth. In a statement, DOL said the budget request "focuses on efficiently achieving the department's goals while exercising fiscal restraint."
"You should know that our fiscal year 2013 budget request reflects our commitment to revitalizing our nation's economy and to building an America that is built to last – where everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same set of rules," Solis said during the budget web chat. "However, in light of current economic realities, and like many families across the country, we had to make some tough choices to make sure our top priorities were supported."
For more information on the FY 2013 budget request for the Department of Labor, visit http://www.dol.gov/budget.