Biden’s 2024 budget proposal bolsters OSHA funding by 17%

Dive Brief:

  • President Joe Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget would increase funding for OSHA by $106.4 million, or 17%, to $738.7 million. As part of the increase, the agency seeks to create 432 new full-time positions, a 21% increase from 2023’s fiscal year plans.
  • The budget proposal claims that staff losses at OSHA over recent years have left workers less safe, especially related to increased health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed budget will also increase the agency’s capacity to meet employer requests for outreach, training and compliance commitments.
  • “One of OSHA’s key goals is to continue to build back the agency and ensure that OSHA is the national leader in workplace safety and health,” the proposal reads. “This includes a focus on strengthening agency capacity to respond to emerging hazards, address new and increased responsibilities and respond to the needs of a changing workforce in terms of diversity, economics, and geography.”

Dive Insight:

The 2,505 full-time OSHA positions sought in the budget is 35% higher than fiscal year 2022 figures — which the text says reflect “actual” employment, as opposed to budgeted.

But filling those positions is easier said than done. The long, bureaucratic hiring process often deters workers from waiting to take the position when they can pursue other options, Stephen Boyd, deputy regional administrator of OSHA’s Region 6, told Construction Dive at the Associated General Contractors safety conference in January.

Congress has already given OSHA what it needs to improve staffing, Boyd said, but when applicants must wait for three months to hear back about a job that pays $40,000 a year, they often will turn to immediate employment instead, such as blue-collar work or manufacturing. Boyd said his region had seen more than 100 applicants turn down positions at OSHA in the last year.

Still, the number of new employees required to inspect jobsites would need to increase drastically. At 2021 staffing levels, it would take 236 years for inspectors to visit every workplace in the U.S. 

The budget plan is not final, rather it reflects the administration’s priorities. Congress has until Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, to pass appropriations bills based on Biden’s recommendations and Congress’ own goals. 

Other impacts

In addition, the 2024 fiscal year budget seeks to up the budget for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division by 26%, or $81 million, above 2023’s numbers. The WHD enforces worker protections, such as minimum wage or overtime laws and wage theft.

Last year, the Wage and Hour Division recovered over $32.9 million in back wages for over 17,000 construction employees — the most of any industry measured, and over $5 million more than the industry with the second most.

The administration is also seeking to add $40 million to the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs to promote fair treatment and equal employment for workers, protecting them from discrimination based on race, gender, disability and sexual orientation. The request would mean a 36% increase and budgets for 125 more full-time employees than in 2023.

The budgeting and staff would go specifically to supporting compliance assistance and oversight on large federal projects, like those funded under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CHIPS Act and Inflation Reduction Act.

“This funding will allow OFCCP to build its capacity to remove systemic barriers that workers in underrepresented communities face to access good jobs in construction and other growth industries,” the proposal reads.

Zachary Phillips
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