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April 10
Washington Insider: A Quick Look at the President's Proposed Budget for FY 2014
By Aaron Trippler

 
Here’s a quick look at the president’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014. This budget is not likely to be passed. The Democrats, the Republicans and the president each have a different budget, and I wouldn’​t be surprised to see a Continuing Resolution for at least the first three to four months of FY 2014.

 
In the president’s proposed budget, OSHA would receive:
  • $570.5 million overall
  • a $5.9 million increase for the Whistleblower Protection Program
  • a $2 million decrease for compliance assistance
 
Everything else is essentially the same in the proposed budget. Now, while this proposal is not entirely positive for OSHA compared to the agency’s FY 2013 final funding of around $565 million, it should be considered a positive that OSHA received a small increase. What is even more positive is the fact that the president recognized that the sequester cuts went way too far when it comes to protecting worker health.
 
There are two other things to report for the OSHA budget. First, VPP funding is included, but I don’t know how much. The compliance assistance area also says they will not approve as many strategic partnerships and alliances in 2014. Second, the consolidation is still proposed. The language states:
“Finally, in an effort to streamline agency operations, the budget request proposes a reorganization of OSHA’s regional structure and jurisdictional authority from its current operation of 10 Regional Offices (ROs) to seven. The reorganization will involve the consolidation of OSHA’s Regions 1 (Boston) and 2 (New York); Regions 7 (Kansas City) and 8 (Denver); and, Regions 9 (San Francisco) and 10 (Seattle). These consolidations are expected to result in a savings of $1,300,000 and three FTE.”
Unfortunately, the president’s proposed budget is terrible news for NIOSH. The FY 2014 budget provides $272 million for occupational safety and health programs, $53 million below FY 2013. And the real bad news is for the Education and Research Centers (ERCs). The budget continues targeted reductions to programs such as the ERCs and the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Program within the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).
March 26
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February 28
Washington Insider: Sequester? Continuing Resolution? What Does It All Mean?

By Aaron Trippler

As was expected, the Senate has rejected both a Democratic proposal and a Republican proposal that would have stopped sequestration from taking effect. As it now stands, sequestration will happen at midnight—$85 billion to be cut now through the next seven months. Of course, much of this will not be seen for several weeks. There is still hope that Congress will vote to stop the sequester when they take up the expiration of the Continuing Resolution that expires March 31. Congress must address the Continuing Resolution or the government will shut down April 1 because there would be no authority to spend any more money—as no budget would be in place.

It’s starting to sound like a broken record if you ask me.

February 26
Washington Insider: Countdown to March 1
By Aaron Trippler

There are only three more days until we find out if our government has decided to allow the sequester to take place. If you want to place a bet, I would say it will go into effect, but perhaps for only a couple of weeks. I don't think there is any way they can reach a compromise before March 1, and at this point in time, I honestly believe they don't want to reach a compromise. The Democrats believe that the Republicans will take the blame. The Republicans believe that the Democrats will take the blame. Both sides have to wait until we see the ramifications of the cuts; most believe they won't see an impact for at least 30 days.
 
That leads to the question, "What might happen at OSHA?" OSHA has put out an internal memo that says the agency believes it can avoid furloughs of employees by "targeting" the cuts—in other words, no hiring, no bonuses, no travel, eliminating "noncritical" contracts and sticking to its core mission. OSHA has provided Congress with a proposal on how to run the agency during the sequestration and is waiting for Congress to review it.
 
The proposal from OSHA perhaps answers one big question: whether or not an agency can "target" its cuts from specific programs. It looks like OSHA believes it has the right to do so. I'm not sure if this is good news or bad news. Does this mean that the agency can simply discontinue some programs and transfer any funding from those programs to another? Guess we have to wait and see. It's never boring around here!
February 14
Washington Insider: Michaels to Stay as Head of OSHA
By Aaron Trippler

Word has come down that David Michaels will be staying on as head of OSHA. There was some speculation that he might return to his previous post at George Washington University. This is good news for those who hope to see OSHA move forward on some of the agenda items started during President Obama's first term. The Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) will be number one on the list. However, despite Dr. Michaels' continued support of this effort, it will be very difficult to see I2P2 put in place any time soon.
 
We're still waiting to see who might be nominated and approved as Secretary of Labor to replace Hilda Solis. Seth Harris has been appointed as the temporary Secretary. The leading candidate for the permanent Department of Labor post seems to be Tom Perez.
February 05
Washington Insider: Fiscal Cliff, Round Two

By Aaron Trippler

Will sequestration take effect on March 1? That's the big question, and as of now it looks like Congress will allow the cuts to go through. It's hard to tell what kind of impact this will have on the economy, but for the federal government and for those doing business with the government, the impact will be substantial. For example, word is that the Department of Defense is considering telling some employees that they will be furloughed for up to 22 days in April. Plus, they are being told that there will be absolutely no travel of any kind allowed and that all temporary workers will be terminated.

You can be angry all you want, but as long as we continue to elect individuals who refuse to address our problems, this will likely continue. Remember: the fiscal cliff crisis in January was only round one. In round two, the sequestration issue is delayed only until March and the debt limit has been extended for only four months. The continuing resolution, which funds the government, also expires in March. Batten down the hatches; this could be a rough ride!

January 10
Washington Insider: Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis Resigns

By Aaron Trippler

If you haven’t heard by now, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has resigned. This wasn’t really a surprise—perhaps only the timing. Insiders stated a month or so ago that they’d heard that Secretary Solis wanted to stay perhaps one more year and then go back to California and perhaps run for the Los Angeles City Council. That raised the interesting question of whether or not the president would want someone to serve only one year in the second term, forcing him to appoint someone new for the remaining three years. Some say this may have forced the president to tell Solis he would prefer she leave now if she was going to leave down the road anyhow.

It's not clear who the White House will look at to replace Solis, but one possibility is Maria Echaveste, the former deputy chief of staff for former President Clinton. The appointment of AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker could also be considered as a nod to organized labor. Word is that the president is taking some heat for not appointing more women in the second term, so these names make sense.

What does this mean for occupational safety and health? It’s hard to tell at this point in time. Dr. David Michaels has publicly indicated his desire to stay on at OSHA. While this is probably a given, there is always the chance that a new Secretary of Labor will want to put their own appointment in the position at OSHA. My guess is that Dr. Michaels will be asked to stay on. If someone like Arlene Holt Baker is chosen, I think you would see OSHA given much more direction to increase enforcement efforts. Other than that, I don’t expect many things to change; besides, it may take several months before a new Secretary of Labor is confirmed.

January 07
Washington Insider: Second Fiscal Cliff on the Horizon
By Aaron Trippler

So here we are in 2013. The first round of the fiscal cliff has been averted, but now fiscal cliff number two looms only two months away. Sometime around mid-March, the federal government must address the debt limit, sequestration (put off for two months), and the continuing resolution for the federal 2013 budget. With these things on the horizon, it’s no wonder there will be little discussion taking place about occupational safety and health. While we expect several bills to be introduced in Congress to address various OHS issues, we don’t expect them to be introduced anytime soon. One bill has been introduced on recordkeeping, but is not expected to move.
 
Our biggest concerns now are what will become of the budgets for OSHA, MSHA, and NIOSH, and whether or not Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels are to remain in their positions for this second term. Stay tuned!
December 12
Links of Interest: OSHA Extends Temporary Enforcement Measures in Residential Construction through March 15

A grab-bag of links from OEHS in the news…

Residential construction. OSHA announced the extension of its temporary enforcement measures in residential construction through March 15, 2013. According to the agency, the temporary enforcement measures include priority free on-site compliance assistance, penalty reductions, extended abatement dates, measures to ensure consistency, and increased outreach. Read the press release.

Lead and noise. NIOSH recently published a new “Workplace Solutions” document including recommendations for reducing lead and noise exposures at outdoor firing ranges for both workers and users. Previously the agency had published an alert addressing these hazards at indoor firing ranges.

Rig move safety. NIOSH issued a 27-minute video that covers rig move safety for truckers in the oil and gas industry. “Move IT!” is available to stream on YouTube. Watch now.

Mining. This month’s NIOSH Technology News report discusses “through-the-earth” communication, an emerging technology with the objective of providing a two-way communication system for miners and personnel on the surface following a mining accident or emergency. Read more.

Construction. At the conclusion of OSHA’s 2012 no-notice construction incident prevention campaign, the agency has issued 243 citations and proposed $658,862 in fines to companies on construction sites in OSHA’s Philadelphia region. Of the 545 no-notice inspections OSHA performed during the campaign, 59 percent revealed violations, the agency reported.

Flight attendant safety. The Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked with OSHA to propose a new policy that FAA says will improve occupational health and safety for aircraft cabin crew members by allowing OSHA to enforce OHS standards currently not covered by FAA’s oversight. Read OSHA’s press release.

Health care. A monograph published Nov. 19 by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit that accredits and certifies health care organizations, identifies potential opportunities for synergies between efforts to improve worker safety and efforts to improve patient safety in the health care industry. Read more.

NIOSH eNews. The latest issue of NIOSH eNews includes information on the agency’s oil and gas extraction safety and health program, as well as news related to motor vehicle safety and chemical hazard exposure assessment and control. Read more.

Construction. OSHA published a new Web page focused on preventing backover incidents in the construction industry. According to the agency, over 70 workers died from backover accidents last year. View the Web page.

Ignition hazards. A new OSHA fact sheet discusses internal combustion engines as potential ignition hazards in workplaces that process flammable liquids and gases. OSHA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board have documented a history of fires and explosions where internal combustion engines were identified as ignition sources. View the fact sheet.

In memoriam. Former Secretary of Labor James Hodgson passed away Nov. 28. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued a statement on his death Dec. 10: “James Hodgson once said: 'I've never had any ambitions; only enthusiasms.' He was being modest, of course, since one of his 'enthusiasms' was worker health and safety. And as the nation's 12th secretary of labor, he leaves an extraordinary legacy in this area.” Read more.

Workplace health. The latest NIOSH Science Blog post talks about how the agency has launched an internal pilot program to reduce sedentary work with sit-stand workstations. Read more.

Solvents. Researchers found that occupational exposures to chemical solvents such as cleaners and cosmetics during pregnancy increased the risk of certain birth defects. The study results were published in the journal Epidemiology. Learn more.

November 30
Links of Interest: EPA Temporarily Suspends BP from New Contracts with Federal Government
A grab-bag of links from OEHS in the news…

BP case. EPA announced on Nov. 28 that BP will be temporarily suspended from new contracts with the federal government. According to EPA, the agency “is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company's conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response, as reflected by the filing of…criminal information.” Read the press release.
 
Whistleblower Protection Program. OSHA has announced Beth Slavet as the new director of the agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program. According to OSHA’s press release, “Slavet is an experienced administrator and manager with more than 30 years of experience with the enforcement of federal whistleblower statutes.”
 
Agriculture. According to study results published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, older farmers who spend more time operating heavy machinery may have a higher risk of injury. Researchers found that farmers age 45 to 64 spent six to eight more days a year operating heavy machinery than younger farmers.
 
Work and depression. Researchers found that workers who experienced repeated “job strain” had the highest prevalence rates of major depressive disorder. According to the study’s authors, workplace interventions could make a difference. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.
 
Hurricane Sandy. There’s been a rise in injuries and illnesses in recovery workers and others helping with Hurricane Sandy cleanup, The New York Times reports. The mess the hurricane left behind is making them sick: “mold from damp drywall; spills from oil tanks; sewage from floodwater and unflushable toilets; [and] tons upon tons of debris and dust.”
 
Methyl iodide. Methyl iodide, a suspected carcinogen, won’t be used in the U.S. by the end of the year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Arysta, the company that manufactured methyl iodide, requested voluntary cancellation of its product registrations and agreed to end sales permanently in the U.S.
 
Chemical regulation. Scientific American has published an interview with toxicologist Linda Birnbaum, who leads the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). Birnbaum discusses the link between environmental and toxic chemical exposures and poor health.
 
CSB awards. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) received Peer Awards for three of the agency’s safety videos from the Television, Internet and Video Association of Washington, D.C. The award-winning videos are “Hot Work: Hidden Hazards,” “Experimenting with Danger” and “Iron in the Fire.” Read more.
 
Carbon black. The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) addressed carbon black as a potential workplace hazard in a co-sponsored video last month that discusses carbon black and exposure risks to workers. Read more.
 
Garment factory fire. Over 100 workers were killed in a garment factory fire that occurred last weekend outside Dhaka, Bangladesh. The New York Times reported the fatal fire as “one of the worst industrial tragedies in that country.” Read more.
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