The EPA isn’t the only target of congressional initiatives aimed at cutting federal spending and curbing “job-killing” regulations.
OSHA is high on the hit list of the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives as well.
A report aired Monday on National Public Radio said Republicans in control of the House are looking to cut OSHA’s budget by 20%. “Republicans say OSHA enacts expensive rules without regard to their effect on business,” NPR reported on its “All Things Considered” news program, in a segment by correspondent Brian Naylor.
“They've proposed cutting its budget this year by 20%, a reduction the director says would be devastating to the agency's efforts to protect worker safety.”
The report quoted OSHA Administrator David Michaels as saying the cutback would actually amount to a 40% reduction, in that the fiscal year is half over. “It would really have a devastating effect on all of our activities.”
Peg Seminario, the safety and health director of the AFL-CIO, agreed. “We now have a much bigger workforce than we had 40 years ago when OSHA was started,” she said.
“But they would propose to slash the agency, slash enforcement, slash standards-setting, leaving the agency essentially crippled and unable to do its job to protect workers.”
Rep. Tim Walberg
Republican House members, meanwhile, say OSHA's stepped-up enforcement threatens jobs, the NPR report said. At a recent hearing, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Michigan Republican Tim Walberg, said OSHA “has become an administration more focused on punishment than prevention.”
Walberg added: “Our goal should be to prevent workplace accidents before they happen, not simply shame an employer once a tragedy has occurred on the job site."
The Obama administration has proposed increasing spending on OSHA in the next fiscal year by a bit more than 4%, NPR said.
The NPR report can be read and heard at OSHA Budget Cut Plan.
Rep. Walberg, part of the Republican tsunami that swept into office in the November elections and gave control of the House to the GOP, is making action on “job-destroying regulations” a top priority of his agenda. Walberg last month introduced a bill to “rein in” the EPA—the Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act. The measure would prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gases without Congressional approval and “stop Washington bureaucrats from implementing a cap-and-trade program that will drive up energy prices on families and businesses.”
Walberg’s bill is a companion to a measure offered in the U.S. Senate by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
The NPR report said a key point of contention has been ergonomics standards. In 2000, in the final weeks of the Clinton administration, OSHA issued an ergonomics rule to set standards for workplaces for repetitive-motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The next year, the GOP-controlled Congress repealed the standard.
“Now the two sides are scrapping over ergonomics again,” the NPR report said. “This time, OSHA wants employers to record instances of repetitive motion injuries, in a log most businesses already keep.”
OSHA Administrator Michaels said the repetitive-motion proposal has been “misunderstood” adding that the agency has decided to further explain the requirement before implementing it. He said OSHA always considers the cost of complying with its rules and invites comments on proposals before implementing them. He told NPR that OSHA can protect jobs and workers at the same time.
“We believe we can do both,” he said. “We know that OSHA doesn't kill jobs. It stops jobs from killing workers. When employers embrace safety, they actually save money. We know that's true. They often don't believe it, but we show them. And we have consultants who provide that information for free.”