2011 DOL Budget Request Includes Nearly $14.5 Million Increase for OSHA

Through a national online discussion, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis recently outlined President Obama’s $117 billion FY 2011 budget request for the Department of Labor (DOL), which includes $573 million for OSHA, an increase of nearly $14.5 million. The budget is built around Secretary Solis’ vision of “good jobs for everyone.”

The 2011 budget request augments the 2010 policy of returning worker protection programs to FY 2001 staffing levels, after years of decline. Solis said the department “expects to hire more than 350 new employees, including 177 investigators and other enforcement staff, many of whom will be bilingual to better communicate with employees in the changing workplace.”

The budget request also affirms the administration’s focus on vigorous enforcement strategies with changes planned for outreach, training and cooperative and compliance assistance programs. According to the Congressional Budget Justification for OSHA, the agency "will redirect resources toward reaching out to the most hazardous workplaces and industries, eliminating or reducing exposure to prevalent workplace hazards, and enhancing outreach and education for small businesses and workers who are hardest to reach and most at risk."

Five Strategic Goals of the 2011 DOL Budget Proposal

Goal 1) Prepare workers for good jobs and ensure fair compensation
Goal 2) Ensure workplaces are safe and healthy
Goal 3) Assure fair and high quality work-life environments
Goal 4) Secure health benefits and, for those not working, provide income security
Goal 5) Foster fair working conditions in the global marketplace.

OSHA Budget-request Highlights

  • The budget includes nearly $14.5 million more for OSHA compared to the amount enacted for 2010.
  • Enforcement funding will increase by $10 million compared to 2010.
  • A portion of the $10 million increase allocated for enforcement will come from money that has been devoted to the Voluntary Protection Programs.
    • During the budget Web chat, Assistant Secretary of OSHA David Michaels, stressed that the agency will be looking for other funding sources for Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association (VPPPA), Inc.
    • In response to concerns about the future of the Voluntary Protection Programs, Davis Layne, executive director of the VPPPA posted a reassuring video message to stakeholders on the VPPPA Web site.
  • OSHA plans to hire 60 inspectors. They will hire 25 new inspectors and shift 35 from compliance assistance to enforcement, bringing the enforcement-staff total to 1,752.
    • “With these additional staff we will be able to conduct more targeted inspections and National and Local Emphasis Programs,” said Michaels during the budget Web chat.
  • OSHA plans to target the most egregious violators through its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).
  • The construction industry will continue to be a focus for OSHA, part of a mission to reduce the number of fatalities caused by the four leading causes of workplace deaths (falls, electrocution, caught in between and struck by) by two percent.
  • OSHA will continue to focus on modifying and creating new regulations.

We will have to wait and see exactly how much of the DOL's $14 billion discretionary budget request sticks after the congressional review and approval process is complete. Regardless, it's clear that even if the funding allocations change, the goal to focus on enforcement will endure, which means employers will need to increase their focus on employee safety and regulatory compliance.