February 13, 2020

President's Budget Proposal Would Eliminate NIOSH ERCs, CSB

President Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 seeks to cut NIOSH’s budget to $190 million, which is $152.8 million below the agency’s funding level for FY 2020. The proposal would eliminate the agency’s Education and Research Centers and stop federal funding to support academic salaries, stipends, and tuition and fee reimbursements for occupational health professionals at universities. NIOSH’s ERCs are part of the agency’s mission to train the next generation of occupational safety and health practitioners and researchers. At the president’s proposed level, budget documents (PDF) explain that NIOSH would “focus on the highest priority occupational safety and health research, including research on mining safety and personal protective technology.” The proposal also argues that some NIOSH activities, including collecting and quantifying human body size and the shape of various occupational groups to develop equipment designs for worker protection, “could be more effectively conducted by the private sector.”

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is again up for elimination. CSB, which investigates industrial chemical accidents and makes recommendations for improving the safety of plants, workers, and communities, is proposed for elimination because “its overlap with other agency investigative authorities has often generated friction.” CSB is requesting a budget of $13.1 million in FY 2021, which includes $400,000 to implement the new chemical incident reporting rule. The agency’s budget justification (PDF) details its accomplishments related to chemical incident investigations, recommendations to reduce future safety risks and hazards, and safety outreach and collaboration.

“CSB investigations have collectively identified gaps in regulatory requirements, industry standards and guidance, workforce training and operations, and emergency planning and response that caused or exacerbated the human and environmental consequences of incidents,” CSB’s budget document reads. “If the CSB’s many safety lessons prevent at least one catastrophic incident, the costs avoided from damage to facilities and the surrounding communities, legal settlements, and the loss of human life far outweigh the agency’s annual budget.”

The president’s budget proposal also recommends a decrease in funding for OSHA: $4.4 million less than the FY 2020 enacted level of $581.2 million. The budget request includes funds for additional staff resources for the agency, including whistleblower investigators, and an increase to support modernization of OSHA’s training programs. Proposed cuts include eliminating the Susan Harwood Training Grants, which the budget documents characterize as “unnecessary and unproven.” OSHA’s training grants provide education for workers and employers on workplace safety and health hazards, responsibilities, and rights. The grants target underserved, low-literacy, and high-hazard industry workers. The elimination of the grants is intended to help OSHA “maximize flexibility and allow alternative methods to develop and distribute training materials to reach the broadest possible audience,” according to the Department of Labor’s “Budget in Brief” (PDF).

Under President Trump’s proposal, MSHA would see a net budget increase of $1,771,000 over the FY 2020 enacted level. According to DOL’s budget document, the FY 2020 proposal includes $256,988,000 for mine safety and health enforcement activity within MSHA, which comprises the formerly separate coal mine safety and health and the metal and nonmetal mine safety and health budget activities. DOL’s funding request (PDF) explains that this new enforcement structure is intended to provide “flexibility to address industry changes and [maximize] the efficient use of MSHA's resources.”

The Trump administration’s proposal requests a $1.3 billion or 10.5-percent budget decrease from the 2020 enacted level for DOL, which would leave the department with $11.1 billion in FY 2021.

Detailed budget documentation from DOL is available on the department’s website. The president’s budget proposal is posted on the White House website.