A fiscal 2014 appropriations bill that increases funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other federal workplace safety agencies above the sequestered spending limits of 2013 was signed Jan. 17 by President Barack Obama.
The spending levels are included in the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill (H.R. 3547) forwarded Jan. 16 for President Barack Obama to sign after Senate passage. The bill would fund the federal government through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
OSHA spending was set at $552.2 million, $28.3 million less than the White House request. While the 2014 appropriation is a 3.2 percent increase over the agency's final 2013 level, the new spending level is still less than the pre-sequester allocation for 2013 of $564.8 million.
OSHA enforcement activities in 2014 will receive $207.8 million, the same as the White House asked for. Several other OSHA activities received less than the White House request. The compliance assistance budget request was cut $5.8 million, to $69.4 million. The requested funding for enforcement by state safety and health programs was cut $4.2 million to $100 million.
Spending on whistle-blower programs was cut by $4.8 million to $17 million. Although the whistle-blower request was cut 22.4 percent, Democratic lawmakers highlighted the fact that whistle-blower spending will be $2 million higher than in 2013.
Farm Inspections Rider
The bill also includes a rider prompted by lawmakers' objections to recent OSHA inspections of grain bins and silo operations. There has long been a standing prohibition on OSHA inspecting farms with 10 or fewer employees and no housing for workers.
The rider says OSHA is “encouraged to work with the Department of Agriculture before moving forward with any attempts to redefine and regulate post-harvest activities, to include, but not limited to, storing, drying, grinding and other activities necessary to market farm products to subsequent users in the agricultural value chain, and clarify that this exemption shall apply to on farm post-harvest activities.”
In response to the lawmakers' concerns, OSHA insisted it hasn't violated the family farm exemption.
The 2014 appropriations for other federal workplace safety agencies include:
- • Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, $11 million (requested $11.4 million),
- • Mine Safety and Health Administration, $375.9 million (requested $380.7 million),
- • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, $292 million (requested $312.7 million) and
- • Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, $11.4 million (requested $12.6 million).
The House passed H.R. 3547, by a vote of 359 to 67, on Jan. 15. Among the lawmakers objecting was the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). Of the dozen appropriations subcommittees, the Labor-HHS-ED panel was the only subcommittee that didn't draft a proposed spending bill prior to the negotiations leading to approval of H.R. 3547.
The bill passed the Senate Jan. 16 with a vote of 72-26, with the chairmen and ranking members of committees with oversight of OSHA voting for the bill.