U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis

FY2012 Budget Request: $583 Million for OSHA, $384 Million for MSHA

Ahead of hearings this week by the U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee, Labor Department leaders explained the details of the administration's request.

U.S. Labor Department leaders on Monday explained the details of the administration's FY2012 budget request in a live webchat, discussing the $583 million requested for OSHA and the $384 million for MSHA. While bitter funding battles have yet to be fought in Congress, the proposal stakes DOL's position on regulatory and enforcement action.

Both OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels and MSHA chief Joe Main would see small increases in authorized personnel at their agencies if the full requests were granted. Main said more than 30 additional full-time equivalent positions at MSHA are funded in the request, and these would include enforcement personnel, health specialists, and regulatory staff, he said. Michaels said the request includes funding to hire 25 additional OSHA compliance officers.

"Our number one regulatory priority remains injury and illness prevention programs. We are also continuing to gather information and interact with stakeholders around a combustible dust standard," Michaels said in one answer he posted. Asked why $4 million was restored to OSHA compliance assistance in the request, Michaels answered, "We are no longer proposing alternative funding for the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). OSHA will continue to fund VPP out of the federal compliance assistance budget activity."

He also explained why OSHA plans to expand its Site-Specific Targeting program. Currently focused on establishments with 40 or more employees, it will target sites with 20 or more employees. "By targeting employers with high injury rates who have 20 or more employees, we will be impacting a far larger group of workplaces, while actually conducting a slightly higher number of inspections. In 2012, we project about 2,000 SST inspections compared to 1,780 conducted in FY 2010," Michaels responded.

The U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee will examine OSHA and DOL regulatory policy and enforcement strategy, perhaps, in two hearings taking place this week. U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is scheduled to testify at a Feb. 16 hearing titled "Policies and Priorities at the U.S. Department of Labor" before the full committee, where Republicans have a 23-17 majority. The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections has scheduled a hearing starting at 10 a.m. EST Feb. 15 that is titled "Investigating OSHA's Regulatory Agenda and Its Impact on Job Creation."

This subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., an includes Rep. John Kline, the full committee’s new chairman, as a member. The subcommittee’s former chair, Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., is now ranking member. Former committee chair George Miller, D-Calif., is a subcommittee member.

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