Many Americans are already feeling the impacts of the federal government shutdown, which began Oct. 1. Some are feeling it in their wallets: many federal workers were furloughed, and other government employees were required to report to work without pay. Others are noticing the shutdown in other ways: national parks and museums are closed, and federally funded services are unavailable or could be disrupted. But how is the shutdown affecting occupational health and safety? AIHA® Government Affairs Director Aaron Trippler discusses the shutdown’s consequences for federal agencies in his latest Happenings on the Hill newsletter.
“It didn’t take long for the Department of Labor to feel the impacts,” Trippler writes. “OSHA furloughed 90 percent of its employees, declaring only 230 of its 2,235 staffers ‘essential.’ OSHA will continue to enforce imminent danger situations and respond to emergencies and safety and health complaints. Regional OSHA offices remain open with very limited staff.
“At MSHA, things aren’t quite as bad. MSHA kept 41 percent of its work force on the job, raising an interesting question as to why OSHA felt it necessary to cut 90 percent of its employees while MSHA cut only 59 percent. OSHA State Plans may face some minor problems, but most have indicated that it’s business as usual.
“Over at NIOSH, agency director Dr. John Howard stated that he didn’t feel the shutdown would have an immediate major impact because much of the agency’s research is long-term.
“At the White House, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) cut its staff from 40 employees to two. I’ve heard individuals say that this cut will bring the federal rulemaking process to a standstill, but I’m not sure it could become any more stationary than it is already.
“No one knows what will happen next, and more crises are expected. This budget debate isn’t even about the fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget; it’s about whether to fund the government for a short eight to 12 weeks. After that, the problem returns. Plus, the government will reach its debt limit by Oct. 17.”
Happenings on the Hill newsletters are available to AIHA members via the Member Center.