Status of I2P2: OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program

i2p2You may have heard that OSHA is developing a rule to require employers to create injury and illness prevention programs.  The rule is being called I2P2 for short.  I2P2 has been delayed numerous times over the past three years.  At this point, stakeholder meetings have been held, but comments must be gathered from small business representatives under a process required by SBREFA (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act).  A proposed rule cannot be published until this happens.  OSHA indicated in 2012 that this process would happen in March 2012, but it has been postponed at least three times.  The latest postponement was announced in June 2013, and notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) is now planned for January 2014. Dr. Michaels, Administrator of OSHA, still says that I2P2 is the agency’s “highest priority”.

Will we ever see I2P2? At this point, it is uncertain since the process has been delayed so many times.  However, this has always been the nature of OSHA rule making.  Five things make me think that OSHA will continue to fight hard to push I2P2 through.

  1. OSHA published a white paper on I2P2 last year in order to build consensus that I2P2 would be a benefit to businesses (including small businesses).
  2. OSHA published a fact sheet in June of 2013 to dispel myths about I2P2.  Myths have been rampant since the draft standard has not been made available. OSHA plans to provide the draft standard to the public once the SBREFA process begins.  The fact sheet identifies the primary components of I2P2.
  3. OSHA has received pressure from ASSE urging OSHA to develop I2P2.  AIHA issued a white paper supporting I2P2 also.  Following the April, 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, ASSE sent a letter to President Obama again urging the advancement of I2P2 rule making.
  4. OSHA has perceived pressure from state plan states to develop I2P2 since currently 34 states have either regulations or incentives tied to worker safety and health programs.
  5. OSHA has an I2P2 page on their website in order to market the standard.  The banner on the website reads “Injury and Illness Prevention Programs: Good for workers.  Good for businesses.  Good for America”.  Honestly, I2P2 reminds me of the way GHS was rolled out: a little bit at a time over a long period of time.  They  issue a fact sheet, a white paper, a website, and the next thing you know, you have a standard.

Pros and Cons of I2P2

In an ideal world, I2P2 sounds good.  It is largely based on OSHA’s 1989 Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines (the backbone of the VPP program).  According to OSHA’s Fact Sheet on I2P2, the following elements will be included in the standard.

  1. Management Leadership
  2. Worker Participation
  3. Hazard Identification and Assessment
  4. Hazard Prevention and Control
  5. Education and Training
  6. Program Evaluation and Improvement

The obvious pro is improvement in safety and health programs if these elements are implemented at work sites, and hopefully prevention of injuries and illnesses at these sites.

Many people have stated that the downside of this regulation would be a “back door” ergonomics standard (or other standards not currently in place) since the rule would require identification and prevention of all hazards in the work site, even if standards do not exist for the hazard in question.  Of course,  OSHA can always issue General Duty citations, but they can only be issued under certain circumstances (a hazard exists, you knew or should have known of the hazard,  there is a feasible means to abate the hazard, and employees are exposed).  The question many are asking is if this will give OSHA free rein to exceed the limits of existing OSHA standards or the General Duty Clause.  Another common complaint is that it will be especially difficult for small businesses to comply with due to lack of staffing.  Since the draft standard has not been released, it is hard to know at this point how valid these concerns are.

As a former OSHA compliance officer, my concern is that businesses will open themselves up to citations simply by attempting to comply with the standard.  Depending on how the standard is written, OSHA may require you to keep lists of safety and health hazards that were corrected.  OSHA would then review this list to ensure your compliance with I2P2.  The problem is that they can go back six months when they issue citations.  Therefore, they could review your list and cite you for safety and health hazards that you found that violated OSHA standards-even though you had corrected them in the process of complying with I2P2.

What do you think about I2P2?

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