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Jan. 28 — With federal inspection activities fully funded at $207.8 million and the whistle-blower program getting a $2 million boost, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's enforcement efforts for fiscal 2014 are solidifying.
OSHA projects that it will conduct 37,635 federal inspections for 2014, agency spokeswoman Lauren North told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 28.
In April, when the 2014 budget request was released, OSHA projected conducting 39,250 inspections, about the same as the 39,271 inspections made in 2013. However, the government shutdown in October prevented the agency from performing about 1,400 site visits, according to a summary of the shutdown's impact by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The agency's plans for fiscal 2015 and proposed allocations to state programs are expected to be detailed on March 4, when the White House releases its proposed budget and spending justifications.
OSHA will use 2014 inspections to set a baseline for future priorities as the agency moves toward a “weighted” inspection program, North said.
Currently, each inspection, whether it takes six months for a process safety management review or six hours at a construction site, is weighted the same by OSHA. By weighting inspections, OSHA will take into account resources required for different types of inspections, North said.
“The weighting system would allow the agency to more accurately measure and assign limited resources required to perform various inspection-related activities,” North said.
Since 2011, OSHA administrator David Michaels has advocated for performing fewer inspections in exchange for conducting a greater number of time-consuming inspections.
OSHA had asked for funding to pay for 47 new positions to handle and investigate whistle-blower complaints, raising the number of whistle-blower staff members to 162. However, OSHA's whistle-blower budget grew by only $2 million to $17 million, not the $21.9 million allocation the agency had requested.
North said no decisions have been reached on how many new whistle-blower staff positions would be created with the $2 million increase.
The agency justified the new positions saying they were needed to help reduce a case backlog and cope with the additional work created by recent laws such as the Food Safety and Modernization Act and the Affordable Care Act.
OSHA's budget request forecasted a backlog of 2,385 whistle-blower requests in 2014. The prior year, 82 percent of the 2,272 then-unresolved cases had been open for over 90 days, and on average the cases had been pending for 408 days. Federal law calls for completing complaint investigations within 30 to 90 days, depending on the statute covering the complaint.
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