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How Will Department of Labor’s Request Impact Workers?

The Department of Labor has requested just under 1 billion dollars for the 2012 budget. The administration's request includes $583 million for OSHA and $384 million for MSHA. Details of this request were explained on Monday, February 14, 2011 on a live webchat, according to a report appearing on ohsonline.com.

If the requests are granted there will be additional personnel added to both agencies, which will increase the number of staff members working in enforcement, as health specialists and regulatory staff. During a time when the economy is still questionable and the country is experiencing a deficit in the trillions of dollars, one would wonder if these two agencies will have any luck in securing the funding they request? And if they are successful, how will the additional funding impact American workers?

We are looking at two of the major agencies in charge of ensuring workers are protected from health and safety hazards in the workplace. Without the established rules, regulations and standards in place, each and every worker might find their daily job to be a hazardous experience. Fortunately this is not the case. What workers do have to consider is what happens if these agencies do not receive the funding necessary to live up to their obligations? Would all employers strive to provide the safest working conditions if there was no fear of fines or other consequences from OSHA? Would the lack of inspections or investigation into hazardous work environments increase the risk assumed by employees? These are all questions which must be asked by not only those who decide on funding, but also employers and employees in the workforce.

OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels stated, "The request for OSHA includes increases of $6.4 million to improve regulatory standards that protect workers; including combustible dust, infectious disease, walking and working surfaces, hazard communication and silica. Included in the request is $2.4 million in the safety and health standards budget activity to continue to develop the Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule."

Unsafe work conditions put employees at an increased risk of accident or injury, which has a direct correlation with the number of workers' compensation cases reported each year. Making sure these agencies have the funding necessary to do their job will protect workers across the nation and help to provide better working conditions across the board.

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