(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined Representative George Miller (D-CA) in sending a letter to the Obama Administration expressing dismay that the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget cuts two successful worker safety and health programs in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). These programs provide the scientific basis for safety and health regulation.
“As members with Committee jurisdiction over the Occupational Safety and Health Act, we write to express dismay that the President’s FY 12 budget request zeroed out two effective worker safety and health programs in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) based on faulty, if not outright misleading, justifications,” wrote Senator Murray and Representative Miller.
These budget cuts would
close 14 sites, including the Spokane Research Laboratory which focuses on mine
health and safety research.
Full text of the letter is below:
Honorable Jack Lew
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th St., NW
Washington, DC 20503
members with Committee jurisdiction over the Occupational Safety and Health
Act, we write to express dismay that the President’s FY 12 budget request
zeroed out two effective worker safety and health programs in the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) based on faulty, if not
outright misleading, justifications.
The budget proposes to zero out the NIOSH Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry (AFF) program, a $23 million program which reduces occupational injury and illness in three very high-risk industries, and the NIOSH Education and Research Centers, a $24.3 million program which funds occupational medicine residency and training programs, pursuant to a mandate in Section 21 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHAct).
The need for the AFF program is clear. Logging, fishing and forestry have
amongst the highest rates of occupational injury and death. Fishermen
have a fatality rate 37 times greater than average, and logging workers have a
fatality rate 23 times greater.
justify the elimination of the program, the budget justification cites a 2007
National Academy of Science (NAS) review which found that, while NIOSH’s work
was highly relevant, its impact, while extremely strong for the commercial fishing
industry, could use augmentation and better coordination for forestry and
farming. Since then NIOSH has reorganized the program with tangible
entire expert panel who wrote this 2007 NAS report recently wrote to Congress:
“we were shocked to discover that only a small selective portion of our
assessment of the [AFF] program was cited as the basis for the zero budget
proposal. Upon careful reading of the President’s budget justification
narrative, it became clear to us that its authors have misunderstood our
panel’s findings and misconstrued our conclusions.”
the President’s budget justification falsely asserts that both the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) “have more direct programs” to carry out this work. Pursuant to
the OSHAct, NIOSH is charged with conducting safety and health research, while
OSHA promulgates standards, conducts enforcement and provides compliance
assistance. Unless the OSHA Act is amended, such research is outside OSHA’s
authority. USDA has no occupational safety and health prevention programs;
these were terminated in the mid-1970s.
and Research Centers: The OSHAct directs the Secretary of
Health and Human Services to “conduct, by grants or contracts, education
programs to provide an adequate supply of qualified personnel to carry out” the
law. To fulfill this mandate, NIOSH established Education and Research Centers
(ERC) to support occupational medicine residency programs. The Institute
of Medicine (IOM) has found that occupational medicine needs more specialists
with formal training.
justify zeroing out the ERC funding, the President’s budget justification
asserts that the “original programmatic plan was to provide money for five
years for institutional to develop and or expand existing occupational programs
and for grantees to be self sustaining over time.”
never intended for this program to be a seed program to be eliminated in
five years. As reflected in the legislative authorization, Congress intended to
continue these training programs until there was “an adequate supply” of
occupational doctors, industrial hygienists and other related
professionals. If the President wants to eliminate this program, he
should send Congress a proposal to amend the OSHAct to remove this mandate.
budget justification falsely contends that the original programmatic plan from
the 1970s intended that this was a time-limited program. We have
now learned that OMB staff never reviewed this original programmatic plan,
which may explain why the justification misinforms Congress that this was a
short duration program intended to be sunsetted after 5 years.
the justification asserts that the program is unable to track the ultimate
employment of the graduates from this program. NIOSH has provided
Congress with extensive detail on the employment outcomes, and data is posted
on its web site.
budget justification also contends that OSHA can provide this same training,
and therefore NIOSH should be defunded. This is erroneous. OSHA’s
Training Institute provides short term training for federal and state
inspectors on OSHA’s enforcement and compliance assistance
programs. OSHA also offers continuing education courses to enable
its staff to maintain professional certifications. OSHA does not provide
occupational medicine residency programs, or basic training in industrial
hygiene or related disciplines.
is the only federal agency responsible for funding training programs for
occupational physicians and allied occupational health providers and conducting
research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related illness
and injury. Unlike almost every other major medical specialty, occupational
medicine does not receive residency funding support from the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services. If the ERC’s lose their funding, there is
simply no other source of support, and they will close.
the Administration wants to terminate duplicative or underperforming programs,
we will cooperate in that effort. However, the rationale provided by the
President’s FY 12 request does not support these two program cuts. We are
concerned that OMB may use the $47 million in proposed FY 12 cuts for these two
programs to fund spending cuts in the FY 11 continuing resolution.
view of the plainly these defective budget justifications, we would ask that
- Direct a review of these two budget justifications, in consultation with NIOSH;
- Take appropriate action, including, including submission of a budget amendment; and
- In the meantime, hold these programs harmless from cuts as part of the FY 11 continuing resolution.