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Trump Administration Releases First Budget, Safety Takes a Hit

03/16/2017
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By Dave Heidorn, JD, Director, ASSE Public Affairs & Communications

The Trump Administration’s budget blueprint for FY2018 is out. It’s mostly an outline with some specifics.

Word getting around DC was that OSHA wouldn’t have much of a problem. But that doesn’t mean there are no proposed cuts to federal resources for OSH. When the outline is filled in, the losses may be even more dramatic than the one agency with a bulls-eye on its back right now.

Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is eliminated off the bat, along with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities that get the attention in the news.

CSB is the only federal agency committed to studying why major industrial explosions and fires happen. OSH professionals and employers have come to rely on the agency’s superb communications detailing  what went wrong in each investigated explosion, including major catastrophes like Deepwater Horizon and West, TX. Without CSB, industry is left without a history from which to learn. And the same explosions can happen again and again.

Embracing CSB’s value, ASSE has always supported the agency's budget requests. The $11 to $12 million the nation expends on these investigations has always seemed like a small investment that saves industry in exponential amounts and makes OSH professionals' more effective.

Americans understand the value of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is not identified for cuts in the blueprint. The risks of driving and flying in airplanes are obvious. CSB does the same work to identify risks in industry. An industrial facility is not in everyone’s driveway, but it is often next door. If NTSB is a value to the American people, CSB should also be a value.

Read CSB Chair Vanessa Sutherland's statement on the budget announcement.

OSHA

OSHA itself is not targeted for cuts, but the Department of Labor (DOL) is slated to receive $9.6 billion, which is a $2.5 billion (21%) budget decrease. To reduce an entire department to 4/5ths of its previous self, those cuts will have to come from somewhere.

The only specific OSHA program on the block are Harwood Grants. These grants that support worker safety training programs are a political football every year. Since unions are the predominant resource for worker safety training programs, Republican administrations try to end them while Democratic ones try to keep them. They have always survived, and ASSE has supported them. 

NIOSH

There’s not yet a clear understanding of any impact on NIOSH, which is part of CDC in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The blueprint asks for $69 billion for HHS, which is a $15.1 billion (17.9%) budget decrease.

Again, cuts will have to come from somewhere, and NIOSH has always been a bit of an odd-man-out in CDC. When an agency has responsibility for guarding the nation against population-level risks like Zika virus, cancer and heart attacks, it’s not an easy sell to have any agency that supports occupational health education, training and research to help save less than 5,000 lives in workplaces. 

For the last 8 years, ASSE and the OSH community have fought simply to keep funding for the large education programs that train OSH professionals. Presumably, the same cuts will be proposed, as the following may indicate (from page 22 of the blueprint):

“Eliminates $403 million in health professions and nursing training programs, which lack evidence that they significantly improve the nation’s health workforce.”

What money going to states in block grants through CDC might mean to NIOSH, no one seems to know yet. 

"The budget also reforms the [CDC] through a new $500 million block grant to increase state flexibility and focus on the leading public health challenges specific to each state."

 

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