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OSHA & MSHA Budget Proposals for Fiscal Year 2015

As an employment and labor law attorney, I am constantly emphasizing the importance of complying with regulations regarding employee health and safety. Training, up-to-date policies and procedures, and an environment focused on safety are the best ways to ward off costly fines and potential employee lawsuits.

In recent years, OSHA has increased their inspections and enforcement activities and it appears that the agency is set to continue on the same course. The Obama Administration recently issued the Department of Labor’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2015. As part of the budget request to Congress, OSHA is seeking a total budget of $565 million, a $12.7 million increase from the enacted FY 2014 budget. A third of the new money would go towards the hiring of 27 new employees for the agency’s whistleblower protection program – an indication that there has been a surge in whistleblower cases and the agency will increase its focus on these. Other enforcement programs would receive $3 million in new funding.

The budget proposal also seeks a new target for inspections – small establishments where there is potential for catastrophic accidents. Currently, OSHA is prohibited from inspecting businesses with 10 or fewer employees in industry codes that have lower than average injury and illness rates. The proposal would allow OSHA to inspect businesses with process safety management programs or those which fall under the Environmental Protection Agency’s risk management program.

Earlier this week, MSHA’s reminder about mine safety was discussed. In the FY 2015 budget proposal, MSHA is asking for $377.2 million, the majority of which would go toward strengthening its enforcement functions. The agency wants additional funding to move forward on a regulation governing hazards faced by miners working around mobile equipment in underground mines. In addition, MSHA has proposed to end its $8.4 million annual subsidy to the states for training. The proposal mirrors one that was included in the FY 2014 budget, but did not succeed.

The proposals will no doubt face criticism and modification efforts in Congress, but the budget requests enforces the notion that employers must continue to focus on federal labor laws and protect the safety of workers.

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This article does not constitute legal advice.

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