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Investing in Our Most Precious Resource

Filed in Mining, Safety By on February 10, 2016
Construction workers discuss a work plan.

Construction workers discuss a work plan.

Everyone is entitled to a safe place to work so they can earn a living and provide for their family. Yet every day, workers across the country are injured and killed on the job in preventable incidents. We need to make strong investments in the health and safety of America’s workforce, so that everyone can return home safely.

Among many other strategic investments, this year’s budget proposal requests an increase of $42,236,000 in funding and 100 new employees for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration across a variety of programs that protect workers. These investments include:

  • $1.5 million to restore 10 of the compliance assistance specialist positions that were cut in the previous funding bills. These specialists help provide essential outreach to both employer and vulnerable worker communities about new and revised standards, key enforcement initiatives, and issues affecting high-hazard industries such as the oil and gas industry.
  • $2 million to enable On-site Consultation Projects, which provide assistance to small- and medium-size employers, to hire and train staff for to support OSHA’s rapid response investigations. The funding will also provide staff with process safety management training in support of Executive Order 13650, “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security,” and meet minimum staffing levels.
  • $5.15 million to enable the agency to enhance safety and security at chemical facilities by implementing Executive Order 13650. OSHA would use $2,450,000 to modernize the Process Safety Management Standard and other chemical-related standards. The remaining $2.7 million would be used to hire compliance officers to perform PSM inspections of chemical facilities.
  • $6.7 million to support the implementation of the rapid response investigation protocols to manage the workload resulting from the enhanced reporting requirements in the 2014 revisions to the Recordkeeping Standard, which require employers to report work-related hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye.

To continue our support of miners and their families, the 2017 budget request includes $397,372,000 in funding and 2,277 full-time workers for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The agency will continue efforts that have led to historical low numbers of deaths, injuries and illnesses, as well as record low respirable coal mine dust levels.

MSHA’s initiatives include targeted enforcement at mines with the worst compliance records in order to correct conditions more quickly, implementing a final dust rule to end black lung disease, and a final rule requiring proximity detection systems on continuous mining machines in underground coal mines. MSHA will also continue to work – in collaboration with the mining industry – on special initiatives for metal and nonmetal mines and providing outreach and training assistance to the mining community. We also believe it is critical to protect miners from workplace discrimination when they report unsafe and unhealthy conditions, and has increased its activities in this area.

A mine rescue team fights a fire during a simulated mine emergency.

A mine rescue team fights a fire during a simulated mine emergency.

Some of MSHA’s budget highlights include:

  • $2.1 million to implement and enforce the final dust rule. The rule is the culmination of MSHA’s “End Black Lung − Act Now” campaign and is being implemented in three phases over two years.
  • $8.4 million to improve training for MSHA staff and those in the mining industry.
  • $350,000 to support enforcement activities in the U.S. territories, which include American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • $600,000 for increased funding to support targeted rulemaking activities that have been central to MSHA’s mission to protect miners.
  • $1 million and six full-time employees to continue to improve the timeliness of special assessments, and improve special investigations of claims for discrimination and other criminal and civil investigations and accountability reviews.
  • $2 million for the replacement of the inspectors’ portable application laptop system, which is used by enforcement personnel to log violations and notes following a mine inspection.

No one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood, and President Obama’s budget request reflects that common-sense imperative. The Labor Department is proud to work every day to protect more than 130 million workers on 8 million work-sites in the United States, and this budget will enable us to continue to do so in 2017 and beyond.

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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