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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has continued to aggressively enforce major workplace safety rules despite stagnant resources and shrinking personnel, experts say.
The agency received $5 million in additional funding for fiscal year 2018 after congressional budget negotiations, increasing its budget to about $557.8 million from the $552.8 million in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association “would definitely love for President (Donald) Trump to request additional funds for OSHA,” said Mark Ames, director, government relations for the association in Falls Church, Virginia. But with the $5 million boost, “things are going in a very positive direction.”
The Trump administration had previously requested a $9 million reduction in the agency’s budget. But the administration has mostly focused its anti-regulatory efforts on other agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Howard Mavity, an Atlanta-based partner in the workplace safety and catastrophe management practice of Fisher & Phillips LLP.
“Knock on wood, they haven’t gone after OSHA, and truthfully they really shouldn’t,” he said. “You think about the pathetic budget it has compared to the EPA and the importance of its mission. It’s the only agency where everyone agrees on the mission. Even your most die-hard anti-regulation people acknowledge that the OSHA mission is valid.”
While Congress has preserved OSHA’s funding, the agency has never had sufficient funding to enforce workplace safety rules — a problem worsened by the lack of a political leader, he said.
“You need someone squawking to get your money,” Mr. Mavity said. “I have no doubt that they have been fortunate to even keep what they’ve got with no advocate.”
Meanwhile, as of January 2018, the number of OSHA inspectors had declined by 50 from the previous year, to 764 from 814, according to an April report by the AFL-CIO.
The stalled nomination of Scott Mugno as assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health has left a leadership void at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, leaving the agency unable to embark on or advance major regulatory initiatives.