The Federal Budget: What It Could Mean for Occupational Safety, Health and the Environment

2018 US federal budget cover

From EHS Today:

by Sandy Smith

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney calls “FY 2018 America First - A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” – President Donald Trump’s first budget – “fairly compassionate.” But with a number of federal programs aimed at the elderly, children, workers and the environment facing deep cuts or complete elimination, environment, health and safety (EHS) professionals and others are concerned, particularly when combined with several Executive Orders signed since Trump took office.

When questioned by CNN’s Jim Acosta, Mulvaney said the budget “simply reallocates and reprioritizes spending as any family or business would do,” adding that the budget reflects Trump’s campaign promises to prioritize national defense and homeland security, including immigration reform.

But with deep cuts and even elimination proposed for a number of programs, including EPA, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation, Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the Chemical Safety Board, the proposed Trump budget makes a statement about the administration’s priorities.

The Department of Labor is facing a budget cut of $2.5 billion, nearly 21 percent of its total budget. If approved, this will result in cuts to:

  • Job training/employment/re-employment services.
  • Senior Community Service Employment Program (eliminated)
  • Job Corps
  • Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) grants (eliminated)
  • OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program (eliminated)

“Working people in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin didn’t vote for a budget that slashes workforce training and fails to invest in our nation’s infrastructure,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “President Trump’s proposed budget attempts to balance the budget on the backs of working families. The $54 billion cut to programs that benefit working families is dangerous and destructive. Huge cuts to the departments of Labor, Education and Transportation will make workplaces less safe, put more children at risk and make improving our failing infrastructure much more difficult. The administration can and should do better.”

Laura Barrett, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, called the proposed budget “a sellout of working people,” and took particular issue with cuts to the OSHA budget.

“Proposed cuts to (OSHA) – the agency charged with ensuring workplaces are in compliance with safety regulations – are particularly galling,” said Barrett. “Currently, there is only one OSHA inspector for every 59,000 working people in the nation, making it impossible for OSHA to inspect each and every workplace in the country. Instead, the most cost-effective way to prevent workplace injuries or death is to have a workforce educated in health and safety on the job.”

She noted that since its inception in 1978, more than 2.1 million working people have completed health and safety training under OSHA’s Susan Harwood Grant Program. “In the past five years, Interfaith Worker Justice and its affiliates have trained thousands of difficult-to-reach and often vulnerable working people on occupational health and safety issues. These trainings have saved lives and prevented serious workplace injuries and illnesses,” she added. “Cutting this relatively low-cost program from OSHA’s budget will put working people across the nation at risk of serious injury or death on the job.”

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