OSHA

The House of Representatives finally passed its FY 2022 budget late last night, only 5-1/2 months after FY 2021 ended.  Although the Senate still has to act, the budget for OSHA contained in the House bill will likely remain the same — unfortunately.

OSHA will receive $625 million for FY 2022, a small and very disappointing 3.4% increase over FY 2021, and 8% less than the President’s budget request. Given the current inflation rate (7.9% in February and rising), even my rudimentary math skills can tell that a 3.4% “increase” is a budget cut in real terms.

The House had originally proposed $692 million, but clearly that number was never going to make it through a closely divided House and an evenly-divided Senate where 60 votes are needed to pass the budget. (Full budget tables below.)

Given the current inflation rate, a 3.4% “increase” is a budget cut in real terms.

The most disappointing part of the budget was the paltry $1.5 million (8%) increase in OSHA’s “Standards and Guidance” line item, which comes to 33% less than the President requested. That brings the standards budget up to only $19.5 million, half a million dollars lower than the standard budget at the end of the Obama administration before Trump cut it by 10%. While much of the agency’s COVID and infectious disease standards work is funded by the American Rescue Plan (see below), there is still a lot of resource-intensive work that needs to be done to move forward on OSHA’s Workplace Violence, Heat and Process Safety Management standards.

The OSHA Whistleblower budget received the biggest increase, 12.8%, bringing it to $21.5 million. And the Susan Harwood Training Program budget remained flat at $11,787 million.

The FY2022 budget is not the only funding that OSHA has at hand. The American Rescue Plan, passed last year, provided an additional $100 million to OSHA over three years. That money will be divided among COVID-related activities in enforcement, standards, state plans and Harwood training.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) received a modest increase of only $4 million, or 1.1%. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) receives a $6.5 million (2%) increase.

Assessing the Impact of COVID on Workers

The other good news is that the Labor-HHS appropriations report calls for a study “to fully assess the extent and impact of the COVID–19 pandemic on workers and to protect them from unnecessary future exposure and infection.” We have written before about the fact that there has been no comprehensive assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on workers.

Specifically, the House directs CDC to prepare

  1. A study quantifying COVID–19 deaths by occupation and industry based upon an analysis of death certificates. Such report shall compare the higher risk occupations and the rate of COVID–19 deaths in the general population.
  2. A report on the extent of COVID–19 infections among working populations by occupation, the factors that contribute to this increased risk, and a description of disparate impacts by race and ethnicity. The report should include an assessment of the adequacy of reporting and data collection of COVID–19 infections, outbreaks and deaths among workers, and recommendations and a professional budget justification for improvements in data collection and reporting by employers, localities, States and the Federal government for COVID–19 and future epidemics.

Both the study and the report are to be completed within 180 days. While report language is technically not considered mandatory, agencies generally comply with it.

FY2022 Workplace Safety Budgets (Millions of Dollars)

 FY 2021 Final BudgetFY 2022 Final BudgetDollar Change from FY 2022Percent Change from FY 2022
Enforcement$228,711$236,000$72893.2%
Standards and Guidance$18,000$19,500$1,5008.3%
Whistleblower$19,064$21,500$2,43612.8%
State Enforcement$108,575$113,000$4,4254.1%
Technical Support$24,469$25,675$1,2064.9%
Federal Compliance Assistance$75,231$77,262$2,0312.7%
State Compliance Assistance$61,500$63,260$1,6602.7%
Training Grants (Harwood)$11,787$11,78700%
Safety and Health Statistics$32,900$34,500$16604.9%
Executive Administration$10,050$9,631-$419-4.2%
TOTAL OSHA$591,787$612,015$20,2283.4%
TOTAL MSHA$379,316$383,816$4,0001.1%
TOTAL NIOSH$345,300$351,800$6,5001.9%

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