Spending Limits for OSHA, NIOSH Changed Little by Appropriations Bill

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Dec. 16 — Spending limits for OSHA and other federal workplace safety agencies will change little for fiscal year 2016, according to a bill expected to be the final appropriations act for the year.

Details of the bill, released late Dec. 15 by Congress, show the Occupational Safety and Health Administration receiving $552.8 million, the same amount as the fiscal year 2015 allocation. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is allocated $339.1 million, up $4.2 million from 2015.

The bill (H.R. 2029), which is expected to be voted on Dec. 18, raises spending on OSHA and NIOSH above what earlier House and Senate appropriations bills had called for.

Lone Rider

While policy riders were proposed by Republican lawmakers to restrict OSHA's ongoing silica rulemaking, union participation in nonunion worksite inspections, joint employer liability under federal labor law and implementing recent OSHA guidance on process safety management (PSM) inspections, only the PSM restriction remains in the bill.

The PSM rider says OSHA shall not enforce or declare to be in effect the July 22 revised enforcement policy for exempting retail facilities from coverage by the standard for process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals (29 C.F.R. 1910.119(a)(2)(i)) until several conditions are met.

The conditions are that OSHA carry out a public notice and rulemaking process for the enforcement policy and that the Bureau of the Census create a new North American Industry Classification System identification number for farm supply retailers.

The bill also carries over three riders from past years—the inspection exemptions for small farms and employers with 10 or fewer workers in low-hazard industries and a requirement to notify Congress in advance of new national or regional emphasis programs.

OSHA Impact

The spending agreement, if it becomes law, makes uncertain whether OSHA will have the dollars and staff to follow through on initiatives begun in 2015. OSHA had sought a $40 million spending increase, enabling the agency to add 90 full-time staff members in 2016, increasing its ranks to 2,314 positions.

For example, OSHA had proposed adding 22 people to its whistle-blower protection staff, enlarging the whistle-blower program to 157 positions. The agency also asked for money to hire 60 enforcement staff members to focus on process safety management inspections and responses to injury and amputation reports.

For NIOSH, the White House had sought to cut NIOSH's spending to $283.4, down 15 percent from the 2015 appropriation, from $334.9 million by axing funding for agriculture, forestry and fishing research. Those research programs are restored in the pending bill, producing a rare case where the Congress proposes spending more money than the White House requested.

The bill also funds two medical benefit programs administered by NIOSH—the World Trade Center Health Program established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.

Other Agencies 

For the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the bill sets aside $12.6 million, a $1 million boost from 2015's budget, but $600,000 less than what the commission had sought in order to add 10 positions.

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board's proposed spending limit is unchanged from 2015, at $11 million. The board requested $12.3 million.

Lawmakers did include two policy riders covering the CSB, responses to the ongoing controversies over the board's personnel and compliance policies. One rider declares the CSB is limited to a maximum of three Senior Executive Service positions, the number currently serving at the CSB. The other rider specifies that the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general will continue to have jurisdiction over the CSB.

The bills allocates the Mine Safety and Health Administration $375.9 million, identical to the 2015 appropriation and $19 million less than requested.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at brolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

The text of H.R. 2029 is available at http://src.bna.com/bzm.

Additional instructions for implementing the bill, including the PSM policy rider, are available at http://src.bna.com/bzn.