MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's Brian Naylor has the story.
BRIAN NAYLOR: OSHA administrator David Michaels.
NORRIS: The Republicans have proposed a 20 percent cut and given half the year's over, that really means a 40 percent cut. It would really have a devastating effect on all of our activities.
NAYLOR: Peg Seminario, the safety and health director of the AFL-CIO, agrees. She says the Republicans' proposed cuts would diminish the agency's staffing and abilities.
NORRIS: We now have a much bigger workforce than we had 40 years ago when OSHA was started. But they would propose to slash the agency, slash enforcement, slash standards-setting, leaving the agency essentially crippled and unable to do its job to protect workers.
NAYLOR: Republicans argue that OSHA's stepped-up enforcement threatens jobs. At a recent hearing on the issue, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Michigan Republican Tim Walberg, questioned the agency's priorities.
NORRIS: Over the last two years, OSHA has not only attempted to implement several policy changes that would have profound impact on the workplace, it has become an administration more focused on punishment than prevention. Our goal should be to prevent workplace accidents before they happen, not simply shame an employer once a tragedy has occurred on the job site.
NAYLOR: Joe Trauger, a vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers, calls the recording proposal problematic.
NORRIS: It's very difficult for an employer to discern whether or not an injury actually occurred in the workplace or if it occurred outside the workplace. Because the definitions were expanded to such a degree that if a person felt like they had a muscle soreness, that would be a reportable incident. Well, it may not have anything to do with what actually happens in the workplace.
NAYLOR: Michaels at OSHA says the repetitive motion proposal has been misunderstood and that the agency has decided to further explain the requirement before implementing it. He says the agency always looks at the cost of complying with its rules and invites comments on its proposals before implementing them. He says OSHA can protect jobs and workers at the same time.
NORRIS: We believe we can do both. We know that OSHA doesn't kill jobs. It stops jobs from killing workers. When employers embrace safety, they actually save money.
NAYLOR: Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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