Report: Budget woes hamper federal workforce safety inspections

Heading into Labor Day weekend, the report published by the Center for Effective Government finds that the number of workplaces in the United States doubled from 4.5 million to 9 million between 1981 and 2011, yet the number of OSHA inspectors has fallen in that time.

There are now roughly 4,300 workplaces for every OSHA inspector charged with ensuring that safety regulations are followed, according to the center, formerly known as OMB Watch.

Each inspector is now responsible for overseeing the health and safety of 62,000 workers.

“While OSHA is trying to mitigate the immediate impacts of budget cuts, Washington's continuing obsession with deficits will cause OSHA to be less effective in protecting workers,” said Nick Schwellenbach, a senior policy analyst at the center and author of the report. "
 
Proposed budget cuts contained in House Republicans’ fiscal 2014 budget would affect training at a time when many veteran inspectors are nearing retirement. The cuts would also hit resources for investigations into retaliation against whistle-blowers and roll back funding for state enforcement and compliance programs, the report found.

Ultimately, it concluded, reductions in workplace illnesses, injuries and deaths would slow.
 
"OSHA performs a valuable service in safeguarding Americans at work," Schwellenbach said. "However, the agency is stretched too thin. If we're going to prevent debilitating accidents and tragic deaths on the job, Congress and the president need to commit to giving OSHA the resources to protect our health and safety."
 
The full report, titled "What’s At Stake: Austerity Budgets Threaten Worker Health and Safety," is available here