No Deep Cuts for OSHA, MSHA Spending in Trump’s Proposed Budget

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Funding for the Department of Labor’s primary workplace safety agencies would change little under the Trump administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2018 released May 23.

The White House recommends $543.3 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, down about 2 percent from the $552.8 million funding level in fiscal 2017.

The largely intact budgets contrast the Department of Labor as a whole, where the Trump administration proposed a nearly 20 percent cut from fiscal 2017 funding levels. Much of the Labor Department’s reduction would come from canceling training efforts labeled as ineffective, such as the Senior Community Service Employment Program.

The only OSHA program facing proposed termination is the Susan Harwood Training Grants program, which would save $10.5 million.

Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to reduce federal regulations, the White House request also projects the agency will publish three rules in 2018—a revised beryllium exposure rule, a rule making minor changes to several regulations called Standards Improvement Project (SIPS IV), and a rule for emergency response and preparedness.

The appropriation summary is the the first indication of the agency’s rulemaking priorities for the coming year. Without a Trump-appointed administrator in place, OSHA has initiated only one rulemaking—the beryllium revision—since Inauguration Day. Industry-backed rules changing crane operator certification requirements, protecting tree care workers and clarifying which types of railroad construction equipment are excluded from the crane rule have been out of public view.

A Placeholder Proposal?

Marc Freedman, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive director of labor law policy, said policy and spending changes could come after Trump appointees take their posts.

“This looks largely like a placeholder budget request which is to be expected since the new administration has not had a chance to get deeply engaged in the agency’s activities,” Freedman told Bloomberg BNA May 23.

More important than the proposed spending numbers will be the views and attitudes of those leading OSHA, Freedman said.

Peg Seminario, safety director for the AFL-CIO, pointed to reductions outside the Labor Department affecting the Chemical Safety Board and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“The president’s budget seeks major cuts to worker safety and health, eliminating safety and health training for workers, gutting job safety research and wiping out investigations of chemical accidents,” Seminario told Bloomberg BNA May 23. “These cuts will make it harder to protect vulnerable workers and to learn about hazards and control methods.”

OSHA Numbers

The OSHA spending plan does project fewer federal inspections and employees. The number of federal inspections is estimated at 31,000, about 950 fewer than were conducted in fiscal year 2016, the last full year for which data is available. The budget plan calls for OSHA’s workforce to decline by 26 employees to 1,969 in fiscal 2018.

There had been speculation that the Trump administration would move dollars out of enforcement budgets and into consultation programs. However, the proposed funding for enforcement and consultation is essentially unchanged.

Federal enforcement would receive $207.5 million and state program enforcement $100.7 million. Federal compliance assistance is slated for $72.4 million while state consultation grants are proposed to receive $57.7 million.

MSHA Digs In

The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s budget would also remain flat under Trump’s plan at $375.2 million. That level funding comes as a surprise because Trump has long railed against overly zealous regulation of the mining sector.

Within MSHA, the priorities would shift very slightly, with $3 million shaved from MSHA’s coal enforcement program ($157.0 million) and about the same amount added to its metal/non-metal enforcement program ($97.9 million).

MSHA staffing would decline by 42 positions for a total of 2,110 positions in fiscal 2018. Thirty-one of the positions are slated to come from the coal safety and health budget.

The two independent agencies adjudicating worker and miner safety citations—the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission—would also see unchanged funding under Trump’s proposed budget.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Connolly at PConnolly@bna.com

For More Information

OSHA's detailed request is available at http://src.bna.com/o9i.

MSHA's detailed request is available at http://src.bna.com/o9p.

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