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A Safe Investment

safety equipmentYou shouldn’t have to risk your life to pursue a living. Yet every year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more are injured on the job due to unsafe working conditions. At the Labor Department, we believe that all workers deserve to feel safe and protected on the job. With this year’s budget request, we’re investing in the health and safety of America’s workers, to ensure that every worker has the opportunity to earn a living in a safe environment.

  • The budget includes funding to provide the Mine Safety and Health Administration the resources it needs to conduct the mandatory inspections required by the Mine Act and to continue enhanced enforcement activities that address the risks posed by the nation’s most dangerous mines.
  • The budget will strengthen the abilities of MSHA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce worker protections when individuals are retaliated against for reporting unsafe and unhealthy working conditions.
    • In OSHA’s case, the agency’s capacity to enforce more than 20 whistleblower protection laws will be improved, and MSHA will be better able to investigate miners’ claims of discrimination.
    • The budget also includes $6.7 million to enable OSHA to address safety hazards with tens of thousands of employers that report work- related hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye each year. We also recognize the importance of cooperation and prevention, so we’ll continue to provide assistance to companies and workers to identify and correct hazards before workers are injured or killed.
  • New resources will enhance safety and security at chemical facilities, and improve response procedures for major incidents. The budget also includes $3.1 million to fully implement the respirable coal dust rule, which will help stamp out black lung disease, an affliction affecting thousands of coal miners.
  • The budget includes more than $3.4 million for grants to the OSHA-approved state plans, which provide worker protections for 40 percent of America’s workforce. The funds would support many of OSHA’s initiatives such as enhanced reporting requirements, chemical facility safety and whistleblower investigations.
  • The budget proposes increasing OSHA’s outdated civil monetary penalties (which have only been raised once in its 44-year history) so they would present a real deterrent to employers who fail to comply with the law.

The U.S. workforce has more than 130 million workers spread out across 8 million work sites, and protecting them is a big job. This new budget is an investment in the safety of America’s workplaces, giving the department the resources it needs to ensure that everybody who reports to work can head safely home at the end of the day.

Editor’s note: Learn more about the 2016 budget request in Secretary Perez’s Feb. 2 blog post.

Joseph A. Main is the assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. Dr. David Michaels is the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. 

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