June 21, 2005 – Yesterday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it was accepting proposals for $6.9 million worth of new workplace safety training grants under a program that has been in jeopardy since the Bush administration came into power and was to be defunded in appropriations proposals made earlier this year.
At $10 million to $11 million a year, the Susan Harwood Training Grant program remains a large source of income for many university-based and grassroots workplace health and safety programs. With each successive budget, the Bush administration has proposed reducing the training grant money by larger amounts, culminating in a quiet February 2005 statement that funding for the grants was to be nearly eliminated.
Workplace safety and labor advocates expected a cut, but they were caught off guard by the proposal for total removal of money for safety training and education. Many saw it as a sign that OSHA, the federal agency responsible for establishing and enforcing workplace safety and health rules, was more sympathetic to the bottom line concerns of business than ensuring that workers toil in a safe environment.
The call for grant applications appears to signify that the program will not be cut and that funding will be available to continue training workplace health and safety trainings. In addition to the $6.9 million dollars available to new programs, OSHA said $3.3 million has been set aside for groups that have received the training grants in the past. The $10.2 million allocated for the Harwood grants is only slightly less than the amount provided last year.