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The ERC program, launched in 1977, is intended to carry out the mandate of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to ensure
adequate supply of trained professionals in the multidisciplinary fields of occupational medicine, industrial hygiene, occupational health nursing, and occupational safety. A research training program at the regional ERCs was subsequently mandated by the Congress; in part to attract graduates into academic teaching and research, an area of significant shortage.
In addition to the ERC'S graduate academic training programs, an extensive continuing education and outreach program is offered which, over the last five years, has reached an estimated 100,000 people. As indicated above, NIOSH also provides training funds for about twenty-five single-discipline project grantees at other academic institutions out of its training budget. The current total training budget is $10,472,000 for Fiscal 1991. Fiscal 1992. the Administration's budget request reflects no increase in the NIOSH training budget, a fact which causes us serious concern.
We are well aware that your committee has, over the past several years, shared our concern with the growing shortages of trained occupational health and safety professionals to deal with the increasingly complex health hazards of American workers. The Congress has repeatedly kept the three program alive in the face of severe budgetary constraints.
However, the long span of under-funded education and training programs has taken its toll. A majority of ERC and Training Program Grant faculty members are non-tenured at their institutions and many promising students withdraw from occupational safety and health careers because of a lack of support and the uncertainty of completion of their education requirements.
Meanwhile, the manpower shortages in key occupational health specialties have been exacerbated. For example, many of all of the limited number of occupational medicine practitioners in the United States are the products of the ERC and training grant programs. Yet, in 1989, only 122 physicians received full-time training in occupational medicine at ERCS. The overall impact of Federal budgetary restraints in recent years can be measured by the fact that almost 800 students at the ERCS and project grants graduated in each of the peak budget support years of 1980-1981, when the Federal appropriations were $12.9 million.
The current level of graduates is down by nearly twothirds, due to the fact that funding levels have been reduced. For FY 1990 and FY 1991, the funding levels have remained at about $10 million annually.
No additional FY 1992 funds have been requested by the Administration for the Education and training grant program which, is currently at $10.4 million.
We believe that this is unfortunate and once again are requesting your help in furthering worker safety and health research and professional development.
Indeed, we believe that a minimum acceptable level for the overall NIOSH budget is $130 million for Fiscal 1992, an increase of approximately $33 million over the Administration's request. of this requested increase, $28 million should be allocated for NIOSH research, bringing the total research budget up to $114.5 million. The remaining $5 million should be added to the training grant program, raising it to $15.4 million.
This proposal is modest, indeed, compared to where the NIOSH budget should be in light of the past cuts.
We have attached to this statement a table that measures the dramatic impact of NIOSH budget cuts during the 1980's. You will note that the Fiscal 1980 appropriation for NIOSH was $80.4 million (base year), of which $12.9 million was for Education and training. In Fiscal 1992. it would require a NIOSH appropriation of $168.521,715 just to equal the comparable funding of 1980! If these same real dollar figures were to be applied to the Education and training program, an appropriation of over $25 million in Fiscal 1992 would be required just to keep the same level of education activity as existed in 1980!
Occupational hazards have become increasingly complex. After extremely hazardous conditions have been identified, it requires highly skilled and broadly trained professionals to evaluate the real causes of injuries and illnesses that effective and low-cost remedies can be developed and instituted. Our present level of occupational health and education activity in the United States is simply not meeting the demand for such professionals.
It should be emphasized that the annual cost of occupational injuries and illnesses in our country is now estimated to be $200 billion! This amounts to about $1,667 per worker each year! NIOSH'S current budget, on the other hand, amounts to a public investment per worker is less than one dollar.
By comparison, Sweden, for example, in 1988, spent the equivalent of $12.33 in preventive occupational safety and health programs for each worker and Finland invested $12.29 per worker in
These statistical comparisons are even more startling when measured against the fact that occupational musculoskeletal disorders alone cause the disability of some 12 million U.S. workers annually, while occupational. traumatic injuries disable another 10 million workers and result in the annual death of some 10,000 workers.
Occupational-induced hearing loss affects some 500,000 American workers a year. Many, if not most, of these fatalities and injuries could be prevented by more effective, professionally-directed safety and health programs.
Much is said today about the need for America to become more competitive so as to reduce our trade and budget deficits. We believe that the prevention of even a modest portion of the annual occupational injuries, diseases and deaths would produce dramatic dividends throughout our economy.
We are acutely aware of the difficult budgetary situation which confronts the Congress and the major effort that is required to get the deficit under control. But we are also convinced that the benefits of an effective occupational health and safety program are critical to the Nation's future, and thus warrant additional funding.
We, therefore, urge you and your committee to seriously consider an appropriation for Fiscal 1992 of a total of $130 million for NIOSH activities, including $114.5 million in the research line and $15.4 million in training line of the CDC/NIOSH budget. The latter figure includes a modest restoration of lost ground in the ERC and Project Training Grant and a small expansion of the research training effort just recently begun.
We thank you for your past support of our work and sincerely hope that your evaluation of the progress we have made in occupational health and safety education despite limited funding will merit your favorable action on our budgetary request.