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September 09, 2013
Report predicts job safety could be a casualty of budget battles

A new report suggests that the health and safety of America’s workers is on the line as lawmakers gear up for budget debates. The Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch) says OSHA is significantly underfunded and lacks the resources it needs to fulfill its mission. The watchdog organization says another year of sequester cuts could seriously damage the ability of the safety agency to protect America’s workforce.

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The report, What’s at Stake: Austerity Budgets Threaten Worker Health and Safety, points out that while OSHA has not suffered the same level of funding cuts that have plagued other programs, its resources have not kept pace with the growth of the economy.

It calculates that OSHA is actually smaller than it was 30 years ago, with fewer inspectors on staff than during the first year of the Reagan administration. Yet the size of the workforce has doubled in that period—from 4.5 million workplaces to 9 million.

Here’s what additional budget cuts could mean
According to the report, “new cuts are likely to result in more unsafe workplaces, more accidents and injuries, and higher costs for business and society down the road.”

The Center for Effective Government is especially concerned about the inability of federal OSHA to support state plan programs. And it calls budget forecasts for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) “equally dire.”

Other conclusions of the report:

  • There is currently 1 OSHA inspector for every 4,300 workplaces. In 1981, that number was 1 per 1,900 workplaces.
  • At today’s staffing levels, federal OSHA inspectors would need 131 years to impact every workplace in America.
  • Another year of budget cuts would curtail the training of new inspectors and reduce their ability to keep up with emergency hazards.

The report is available at http://www.foreffectivegov.org/whatsatstake-workersafety.

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