Secretary of Labor requests additional funding for OSHA

Dive brief:

  • Labor Secretary Marty Walsh argued for an increase in OSHA staff at a Senate subcommittee hearing last week, amid a demand that would increase both the number of safety inspectors and hours of work investigators reviewing employer payroll records by 2024.
  • The department’s protection agencies lost 14% of their staff over the past four years, while the DOL has lost about 3,000 employees during that time, according to Walsh.
  • The ministry asks $ 2.1 billion in its budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2022 for worker protection agencies, including $ 73 million for OSHA, a 17% increase from last year. The proposal, which would bring the Department of Labor’s overall funding to $ 14.2 billion, must be approved by Congress.

Dive overview:

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began limiting the number of in-person inspections the agency can perform, OSHA has failed to provide the level of oversight needed to keep workers safe, according to a report of the inspector general of the ministry. An increase in the budget would allow it “to carry out the necessary enforcement and regulatory work to ensure the protection of workers’ wages, benefits and rights, to combat the misclassification of workers as independent contractors and to improve occupational safety and health, ”Walsh said at the press conference. hearing.

The loss of staff during the administration of former President Donald Trump compromised the ability of the department’s worker protection agencies to do their jobs, Walsh noted.

“A lack of enforcement makes workers more vulnerable to workplace violations,” he said.

Walsh also referred to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, one of many currently being debated on Capitol Hill.

He noted that the U.S. Jobs Plan would provide funding for training programs focused on growing and high-demand sectors, such as clean energy, manufacturing and care. It also includes many work-oriented initiatives.

“The plan provides critical funding to strengthen the capacity of our labor law enforcement agencies to prevent discrimination, protect wages and benefits, enforce health and safety regulations, and strengthen labor laws. health care and retirement plans, ”Walsh said. “In addition to these investments, the president calls for increased sanctions when employers violate occupational safety and health regulations, which have proven insufficient to address serious violations.”

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