by Julia Banegas

How would the Trump administration’s government reorganization plan affect highly technical workplace safety programs, such as OSHA and MSHA? Part of the plan, announced June 21, 2018, proposes merging the Department of Labor (where OSHA and MSHA sit) and the Department Education into a new agency named the “Department of Education and the Workforce.”

Under the plan, OSHA and MSHA would be placed within an “enforcement” sub-agency along with the Wage and Hour Division from DOL and Education’s Office for Civil Rights, among other entities. But, the administration signals that the operations and activities of OSHA and MSHA would not change.

The administration touts the new agency as equipped to “better meet the needs of American workers and students” within the new landscape of the digital age. This merger has been proposed before. The last time was by the Republican Congress during the Clinton administration. The administration expects to implement the changes within the next three to five years, although Congressional approval would be required to get started.

Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director for Management in the Office of Management and Budget, testified about the plan before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on June 26, 2018. Representatives questioned her about the plan’s lack of detail, the motives behind the reorganization, and its budgetary effect, along with the effect on specific programs. Weichert defended the plan, stating that it was not intended to eliminate federal jobs, although that may be a byproduct of the plan, and that it was a structural proposal that would start the conversation on a reorganization.

Weichert stated that there were “no plans to change the specific activities of OSHA under this plan” and that no changes to compliance assistance or the enforcement of MSHA or OSHA would take place. But, Weichert indicated that part of the conversation could lead to policies that increase the use of block grants to states to decrease administrative costs and that encourage states to implement equivalent workplace safety programs.

Some in Congress were skeptical. Rep. Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the Committee, said that the lack of detail indicated it was not a “serious” plan. We will provide further updates if the plan continues to move ahead.