If you work in manufacturing, you’ve probably heard that some government agencies, notably OSHA and the EPA, have been mandated to become self-funding. I heard this in a discussion at a recent conference, and it seems reasonable. The government debt is $14 trillion, so why wouldn’t the administration want more agencies to pull their own weight? The fear, of course, is that OSHA inspectors are suddenly finding more violations and assessing bigger fines in an effort to follow the mandate and become self-funding.
Quite a few bloggers have been discussing it (ranting about it, I should say), but in reading these blogs, I couldn’t find any specific references to OSHA’s funding. I did find one posting that discusses OSHA’s operating budget, the amount it assesses in fines, and the vast difference between the two sums, concluding that it would be impossible to close the gap. This particular item uses data from 1999 and 2000, which suggests this is an old rumor that just refuses to die.
Finally, OSHA’s budget increased $14.5 million from 2010 to 2011. If the agency were moving toward a self-funded arrangement, wouldn’t its budget decrease from one year to the next?
In a posting from 2008, safety consultant Ronald Koons said self-funding is a myth, but an understandable one. According to Koons, approximately half of the states have their own safety programs. They get about half of their safety budget from the federal government, leading some people to conclude that safety inspectors in those states try to make up the other half by writing citations and assessing hefty fines.
So, the self-funding concept seems to be a misconception. However, the feeling that OSHA inspectors lately have been uncovering more violations and writing heftier fines does appear to be valid. According to a report posted at www.ombwatch.org, the Obama administration has been more aggressive regarding workplace safety than the previous one. While the number of OSHA inspections has been steady for at least five years (100,000 per year), the number of OSHA violations increased more than fivefold from 2007 to 2010 (). The 29 miners who died in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine (April 5) and the 11 oil rig workers who died on BP’s Deepwater Horizon (April 20) put further scrutiny on worker safety.
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