March 3, 2005 -- President Bush's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year asks for a $2.8 million increase in funding to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The fact that OSHA's getting more funding, while many agencies are getting less, seems to be a vote of confidence from Bush. Nevertheless, OSHA says, that increase just covers inflation, and employers shouldn't expect more inspections in the coming year.

The proposed $467 million budget has a few changes business owners should note. It will fund 37,700 workplace inspections during fiscal 2006 (that's about on par with the current year). It will give a bit more money, $1 million total, to states that run their own OSHA programs, meant for compliance assistance, training, and outreach. It will also eliminate the Susan Harwood training grants programs, which frees up $10.2 million. OSHA's explanation is that there are many successful training programs that achieve similar goals.

The overall thrust of OSHA under Bush has been to push voluntary compliance--OSHA working with businesses and asking them to contact it about safety concerns, rather than springing surprise inspections on them. It's been a policy that businesses seem pleased with, and it's likely this approach will hold in the new fiscal year.