OSHA Protects Enforcement From Sequester, Shifts Funds From Compliance Assistance

By Stephen Lee and Bruce Rolfsen  


Despite the 2013 federal budget sequester, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's federal enforcement budget was spared from the sequester cut and actually saw a small increase, according to a Labor Department document.

However, federal compliance assistance programs for employers lost about $15 million because of the sequester and subsequent OSHA efforts to preserve enforcement funding.

When Congress passed its continuing resolution in March for fiscal 2013, the “enacted” allocation for federal enforcement was $207.8 million. However, adjustments OSHA made to the enforcement budget, even with the sequester that took effect March 1, raised the final enforcement allocation to $207.9 million, according to the document obtained by Bloomberg Government through a Freedom of Information Act request. An OSHA spokesman confirmed the document's figures were correct May 7.

If OSHA had not moved the compliance dollars, the post-sequester enforcement budget would have been $196.9 million. The Obama administration had proposed spending $207.1 million on federal enforcement in 2013.

OSHA's total post-sequester budget is $535.2 million. Overall, OSHA lost $28.5 million due to the sequester.

Employer Assistance Cut

OSHA spared the federal enforcement program from the sequester by cutting $10.9 million from the assistance program that provides employers free consultation services on how workplaces can comply with OSHA rules. That cut and reductions earlier in the budget process lowered the compliance budget to $61.4 million, down from the enacted budget of $76.4 million.

OSHA also cut $125,000 from technical support services beyond what the sequester called for.

The agency did not make any other post-sequester budget adjustments, the document showed.

The final amounts for other budget line items were generally in line with the 5 percent across-the-board sequester cuts forecast made by Jeffrey Zients, then-director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a March 1 letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) (43 OSHR 213, 3/7/13).

Final Spending Plan

With the sequester factored in, these are OSHA's line item budget amounts:

• federal enforcement, $207.9 million;

• state programs (enforcement), $98.7 million;

• federal compliance assistance, $61.4 million;

• state compliance assistance, $54.9 million;

• safety and health statistics, $32.9 million;

• technical support, $24.3 million;

• safety and health standards, $18.9 million;

• whistleblower protection, $15.0 million;

• executive direction, $10.9 million; and

• training grants, $10.1 million.


Despite the reductions, OSHA does not intend to furlough any staff (43 OSHR 239, 3/14/13).

Both Democrats and Republicans have denounced the sequester cuts, but the two sides remain far apart on a negotiation that could bring the cuts to an end.

2014 Budget

In April, President Obama called for $570.5 million in OSHA funding for fiscal 2014 (43 OSHR 337, 4/11/13).

Obama's budget request includes $5.9 million more for whistleblower enforcement, the largest line-item hike in the OSHA budget. That funding would allow the agency to hire 47 new whistleblower staff. The budget would also lower OSHA's compliance assistance budget by $2.8 million.

The House and Senate Budget Committees have released their budget resolutions for fiscal 2014 (H. Con. Res. 25 and S. Con. Res. 8) but have not publicly disclosed specific funding levels for OSHA or many other agencies.


The Labor Department's fiscal 2013 budget document is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=jstn-97crfa.