AMERICAN SOCIETY OF SAFETY ENGINEERS

1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187
847.699.2929
FAX 847.296.3769
www.asse.org

April 23, 2004

The Honorable Arlen Specter
Chairman
Subcommittee on Appropriations for Labor,
Health and Human Services, and Education
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
SD-184 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6031

Dear Chairman Specter:

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is pleased to submit the following statement concerning the fiscal year 2005 budget proposal for the Department of Labor, as it relates to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and for the Department of Health and Human Services, as it relates to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

ASSE is the oldest and largest society of safety professionals in the world. Founded in 1911, ASSE represents about 30,000 dedicated safety, health and environmental (SHE) practitioners. Our members are dedicated to excellence and expertise in workplace protection of people, property and the environment worldwide. They are leaders in their fields with the knowledge and expertise needed to advance occupational safety and health forward on a global level. On behalf of our members, we request that this statement be included in the legislative record for the FY 2005 appropriations cycle.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The President's FY 2005 budget would provide OSHA with total funding of $461.6 million, a slight increase from the current level of $460.8 million. It caps grants to states not to exceed $91.7 million, down from 92.5 million in FY 2004. OSHA's enforcement and compliance assistance functions would each receive an increase of $5 million in the proposal. Although this could seem sufficient, the committee must not lose sight of the fact that OSHA is tasked with enforcing whistleblower protection provisions of not only the Occupational Safety and Health Act, but also a dozen other environmental and labor statutes, including the relatively new Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Thus, more funding is needed so that OSHA can satisfy its primary function of regulating and enforcing workplace safety and health.

ASSE works closely to support the programmatic and outreach efforts of OSHA, both through direct involvement in an OSHA/ASSE Alliance and by supporting such initiatives as expansion of the agency's Voluntary Protection Program. The agency is also dedicating significant resources to efforts targeting special populations, such as young workers and the Hispanic workforce, which ASSE's members are proud to support. This Subcommittee must ensure that adequate funding is provided to support these significant outreach efforts.

The Society is very concerned that only $16 million is earmarked for safety and health standards development, which seems insufficient given the number of significant rulemaking initiatives currently underway, including crystalline silica, cranes and derricks, and hexavalent chromium.

ASSE is also concerned because training grant funding would be radically reduced from $11 million to $4 million in the coming year. This may make it impossible for the agency to meet ongoing obligations and could force the cessation of critical programs that provide small employers with the assistance required to protect their workers through proper education. At a time when 5,500 workers still die annually on the job, it is unconscionable to cut drastically funding for employee training. Given that fatal injuries cost the American economy nearly $5 billion annually, it is clear that an increase in OSHA funding for proactive measures is a wise investment.

Mine Safety and Health Administration

The budget under consideration for the Mine Safety and Health Administration is essentially flat. MSHA would receive $275.6 million, up from $270.8 million in the current budget. However, coal mine enforcement would receive no additional funds to adjust for inflation, and metal/nonmetal mine enforcement would receive only a $1 million increase, to $67 million. Standards development is also static at $2 million, though the U.S. Court of Appeals has recently issued a ruling that may force MSHA to resume a significant undertaking to revise more than 600 permissible exposure limits. The agency is also in the midst of updating its asbestos, diesel particulate and crystalline silica standards. It is doubtful that these projects can be completed with the funding that is provided in the budget plan.

In calendar year 2003, MSHA and the mining community were successful in attaining the lowest number of mine fatalities in history. Since 2000, the industry has reduced overall fatalities by 34 percent – a remarkable achievement. MSHA has also committed to improving the professionalism of its inspectorate and administrators, and ASSE supports the agency's request for $500,000 to continue this effort of professional credentialing. We urge this Committee to consider increasing MSHA's funding so that its progress and investment in human capital will not be curtailed due to funding constraints, and so it can continue and expand its compliance assistance to small mines in the coming year.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

The budget for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) -- $278.9 million for FY 2005 -- is included under the Centers for Disease Control line item within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of this amount, $237 million would be dedicated to program activities and $41.9 million for advancement of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). For several years, ASSE has been deeply concerned about the chronic under-funding of NIOSH relative to the critical role that this agency plays in providing the research upon which important regulatory decisions are made by OSHA and MSHA.

In addition to its extramural and intramural research functions and its worksite health hazard evaluations, NIOSH has been called upon since September 11, 2001, to play an integral role in homeland security efforts with respect to bioterrorism prevention, nanotechnology safety and health issues, and the analysis of the impacts on emergency responders at the World Trade Center site. NIOSH has become an agency that not only researches but also puts results into practice by offering solutions that will protect worker and public safety and health.

Despite these added functions, which go well beyond the original role envisioned when the agency was created under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the funding increase proposed for FY 2005 is negligible and barely enables the agency to maintain current program and personnel. By contrast, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences – which was created about the same time as NIOSH at approximately the same initial funding level – has a proposed budget of $650 million for FY 2005.

Further, from the perspective of our members, an increased focus on research in safety issues signaled by the current Administrator of NIOSH is encouraging. ASSE has long called for a more balanced commitment to safety research and support for safety education as compared to NIOSH's traditional commitment to occupational health issues. Increased funding would help NIOSH make this necessary shift in its activities.

We urge that the Appropriations Committee consider supplementing the President's proposed budget with an additional $30 million in funding so that NIOSH can both satisfy the core mission set forth in the organic legislation that created it, but also have sufficient resources to meet the new challenges of the 21 st Century.

Conclusion

Workplace safety and health are critical areas that impact every American family. We urge this committee not to compromise on funding so that OSHA, MSHA and NIOSH can fulfill their statutory missions to protect U.S. workers, and to conduct the research critical to meet new challenges as they arise in the 21 st Century.

Thank you for your consideration of ASSE's perspective on these critical funding issues.

Sincerely,

James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP
President

cc: The Honorable Tom Harkin
Ranking Member

 

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