Biden Budget

President Biden released his FY 2023 Budget request yesterday and the OSHA budget request provides an $89 million (or 14.6%) increase over the FY 22 budget passed just a few weeks ago. (FY 2023 runs from October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023.)  The total OSHA budget would be $701.4 million.  An additional $22 million will be spent this year out of the 3-year $100 million American Rescue Plan to carry out COVID-related activities.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration would receive a 10% increase and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would receive a 2% decrease over FY 2022.

See tables below.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The largest increase requested in the President’s OSHA budget would be a $9.6 million (49%) increase in OSHA’s budget for Standards and Guidance. That line item was cut from $20 million to $18 million in the Trump administration, and was raised to only $19.5 million in the disappointing FY 2022 final budget.

OSHA’s FY 2023 Congressional Budget Justification (CBJ) states that the agency will add 30 standards and guidance staff and “is planning to publish five final rules, seven proposed rules, and complete one SBREFA panel.”  It is not clear exactly which standards are included in the plans, but the budget states that  “The highest priorities among the rulemaking projects are Infectious Diseases, Heat, Prevention of Work Place Violence in Healthcare and Social Assistance.”

The CBJ also notes that OSHA’s plans in the current FY 2022 budget year to “publish two final rules, four proposed rules, initiate two SBREFA panels, and publish two Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking.” The FY 2022 priority remains COVID, and given the paltry funding of the standards budget in FY 2022, it is not clear how much progress will be made in this fiscal year on other topics.  OSHA has already blown through its December deadline to convene a small business review panel (SBREFA) for its workplace violence standard, which was first put on the regulatory agency in Fall 2016.

Whistleblower protections, federal enforcement, federal compliance assistance and statistics would also receive increases ranging from 18% to 22%.  The Enforcement budget includes funding to establish a new Safety Technician Enhancement Program (STEP) with 75 employees. The STEP employees would take over tasks such as “complaint intake and screening, data collection and record retention, and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request responses” that OSHA inspectors currently perform, allowing inspectors to be able to devote more time to performing actual inspections.  OSHA would then develop and train the STEP employees into entry-level inspectors. OSHA hopes to improve OSHA’s diversity by recruiting “for these positions from diverse populations such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Veterans’ Networks, labor unions, worker centers and other organizations.”

The Whistleblower budget would add 63 new positions to enforce the 25 whistleblower laws under OSHA’s jurisdiction and to address the large increase in COVID-related whistleblower complaints.

As of February 13, 2022, the agency has received more than 6,500 new COVID-19-related complaints since the beginning of the pandemic. This has resulted in an increase of approximately 270 new complaints per month in addition to OSHA’s traditional whistleblower workload, creating a backlog of nearly 2,400 pending docketed investigations. It is anticipated that OSHA will continue to experience significantly high numbers of new complaints filed, including complaints that are COVID-19-related.

OSHA State Plans would receive a 6% increase. Part of that would go toward funding a new Massachusetts Public Employee-only plan.  Massachusetts would join Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Maine with public-employee only plans and leave “only” 23 states where public employees have no right to a safe workplace. Many OSHA state plans are concentrated in the West (California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii) and the CBJ also notes that “In particular, many of the western State Plans are faced with protecting workers from heat stress and other climate-related illnesses and injuries from high temperatures, wildfires, and other hazards.”

Speaking of climate change, the problem is mentioned numerous times in the OSHA budget, around the need for a heat standard, but also in enforcement (such as warehouses and natural disasters), and technical support for emergency management of heat, hurricane, tornado and flooding events.

The Susan Harwood Training Grant program would receive a $2 million increase, raising the total to $13.8 million. OSHA also awarded approximately $6.7 million in Harwood Training Grants focusing on the COVID-19 and infectious disease response in FY 2021 and OSHA plans to award the remaining $3.3 million to additional grantees in FY 2022.

Mine Safety and Health Administration

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) would receive a 10% increase, most of that going to standards where the agency plans to develop a proposed rule to address miners’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would receive $345 million, the same amount appropriated in FY 2021, but a 2% decrease from the final FY 2022 budget.

What’s Next?

As was evident in the FY 2022 budget, the President’s budget request may end up being very different than the actual final budget. This year could be worse. Although the FY 2022 fiscal year ends before the November mid-terms, the federal budget is almost never finalized before that date.  Should the House or Senate fall to the Republicans, we can expect next year’s budget results to be significantly less than the President’s request.

President's FY 2023 Budget Request (Millions of Dollars)

 FY 2022 FinalFY 2023 Request$ Change From 2022 % Change from 2022
OSHA
TOTAL612,015701,40589,39015
Safety and Health Standards19,50029,0809,58049
Federal Enforcement23,6000277,89841,89818
Whistleblower Protection21,50025,7904,29020
State Enforcement113,000120,0757,0756
Technical Support25,67527,0071,3325
Federal Compliance Assistance77,26291,60814,34619
State Compliance Assistance63,16063,5003401
Training Grants11,78713,7872,00017
Safety and Health Statistics34,50042,1807,68022
Executive Administration9,63110,4808499
MSHA
TOTAL383,816423,44939,63310
Enforcement26,450029,423629,73611
Standards Development4,5007,9273,42776
Assessments6,6277,7461,11917
Education Policy and Development39,32040,1838632
Technical Support35,04137,3562,3157
Program Administration17,99019,3091,3197
Program Eval. and Info Resources15,83816,6928545
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