Labor Secretary Marty Walsh Suggests More Jobs for Wage and Safety Inspectors
OSHA may receive the funds necessary to increase jobs for investigators.
- By Shereen Hashem
- Jul 16, 2021
The Biden administration’s top labor official attempted to convince Senate appropriators to increase spending to hire more federal investigators, according to an article, previewing the potential for heightening wage and safety standards at businesses nationwide. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh asked a Senate Appropriations subcommittee for funding to double the number of occupational safety inspectors by the end of President Joe Biden’s four-year term. Walsh suggested that staff increase the wage-hour investigators who “scrutinize” employer payroll records.
“The Department of Labor is down about 3,000 employees from where it was four years ago,” Walsh said, testifying before the panel. “If we don’t have the staff and we don’t have the employees to protect the workers, then we can’t be on the job sites, we can’t be checking wage-and-hour, we can’t be making sure people are working in safe conditions.”
The labor secretary did not include specific numbers. However, he said his department is already hiring more enforcement personnel by using $200 million that congress authorized. This is for the DOL’s worker-protection agencies in the American Rescue Plan. Walsh explained that the funding is necessary to grow the agency’s staffing presence beyond where it was four years ago. According to the article, the administration’s proposal for a 14 percent climb to Labor Department funding for fiscal year 2022, totaling $14.2 billion, must undergo negotiations in both chambers of Congress.
It remains a mystery whether or not congress will agree with Walsh in regards to personnel and hiring. Senator Mike Braun asked Walsh if there has been an increase in OSHA complaints to warrant the $73 million rise in OSHA spending that the administration sees for the upcoming fiscal year beginning October 1.
“I would like to get OSHA back to where we’re doing a lot more collaboration of working with businesses to make sure we’re creating safe worksites across America, rather than having to respond to a tragedy,” Walsh said. “And we’re not there yet. The increase that we’re looking for is to build back the OSHA department, build back the Department of Labor to pre-the-last-five-years.”
The Senate’s consideration of DOL spending comes as the House Appropriations Committee figures out its fiscal 2022 labor proposal where democrats are seeking $2.1 billion for worker-protection agencies, including OSHA. This is a proposed increase of $305 million above current levels and $1 million more than the administration requested.
Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.