It's time for another variation on the cutbacks theme for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The latest proposal from the Office of Management and Budget would set a ceiling equal to 560 full-time workers for fiscal 1985, compared with 595 for fiscal 1984 and 636 for fiscal 1983. At its peak in fiscal 1981, the CPSC had 889 staff members.

In a cover letter to Chairman Nancy Harvey Steorts, OMB Deputy Director Joseph R. Wright said, "The president is depending on you and your agency to help him curb the growth of federal spending by managing your resources prudently and ensuring that appropriate federal responsibilities are performed in the most cost-effective and efficient manner."

Steorts said yesterday that she will appeal the OMB proposal, "just as I did the letter I received last year." In that letter, the OMB had proposed 500 staff members and $28 million for the agency for fiscal 1983. After Steorts appealed, the OMB changed the numbers to 595 people and $32 million.

"If the philosophy is to do away with the agency, then this is certainly one way to do that," said Commissioner Stuart M. Statler, referring to the latest round of proposed cuts. "It is a subtle means, but it is damaging nonetheless." PUBLICIZING THE PINCH . . .

The CPSC has announced that it is closing its two-year investigation of certain types of residential circuit breakers after finding failures but no evidence of a serious risk of injury.

Financial considerations were cited as a major reason for ending the probe.

"We are concerned about failures but we can't go forward, because it would require several million dollars to complete it," said Lou Brott, an agency spokesman.

The CPSC began investigating Federal Pacific Electric circuit breakers in June, 1980, when Reliance Electric Co., its parent company, told the commission that many of the circuit breakers did not comply with the requirements of the Underwriters Laboratories Inc. The commission found that the breakers failed certain UL calibration test requirements, but could not establish that this posed a serious risk to consumers.

Commissioner Edith Barksdale Sloan initially voted to continue the investigation, but then changed her vote to create a majority in support of terminating it. Sloan said she made that decision so that a news release could be issued, pointing to the role that resources play in commission decisions on health and safety matters. Otherwise, the investigation would have been left in limbo.

"In this as in other matters, I personally regret that the lack of resources inhibits pursuit of information as to possible hazards affecting American consumers," Sloan said in a separate news release on the decision. SCANLON HEARINGS . . .

Terrence Scanlon, 43, who has been nominated to fill the commission's vacant seat, is scheduled to appear March 16 before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"No problem is expected, so the hearing may be fairly fast--only an hour or so," according to one CPSC staffer.

If the nomination sails through as expected, Scanlon could be confirmed, appointed and sworn in before the end of the month.

That would give the commission five members for the first time since David Pittle's term expired on Oct. 26, 1982. --Molly Sinclair