My State:
January 17, 2014
OSHA wants YOU to have an I2P2

What is it, and will it keep your workers safe?

“Injury and illness prevention programs (I2P2) are good for workers, good for business, and good for America.” OSHA administrator David Michaels made this statement in support of a plan that would require employers to develop written safety programs based on a common set of elements. In its most recent regulatory update, OSHA said it anticipates a notice of proposed rulemaking on I2P2s by September 2014.

Many employers have already established similar programs and consider them an integral part of the way they operate. For others, especially smaller employers, the idea of creating an I2P2 is daunting.

This Compliance Report takes a close look at OSHA’s planned proposal, including its rationale and the evidence of the effectiveness of I2P2s. We also get additional perspectives from a safety expert who is critical of the idea and from a California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) official who has seen the program in action for more than 20 years.

What is an I2P2?

OSHA defines I2P2s as “proactive processes that can substantially reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries and can alleviate the associated financial burdens on U.S. workplaces. These systematic programs allow employers and workers to collaborate on an ongoing basis to find and fix workplace hazards before workers are hurt or become ill.”

The idea is not new. In fact, 34 states and many nations around the world already require or encourage employers to implement programs. Some, like California’s, are wide-reaching, while others affect only certain populations, such as state workers. Based on the success of these, OSHA believes that I2P2s “can provide the foundation for breakthrough changes in the way employers and their workers identify and control hazards, leading to a significantly improved workplace health and safety environment.”

What can employers expect if an I2P2 requirement becomes law? OSHA claims benefits will include:

  • Fewer injuries, illnesses, and fatalities;
  • Improved compliance with existing standards; and
  • Financial benefits associated with a safer and healthier workplace.

The major elements of an effective I2P2 are similar to those promoted for many years by OSHA for a successful safety and health management system. The program components are much like those required for acceptance into OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) and the state-run Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). They are:

Management leadership

  • Establish clear safety and health goals for the program and define the actions needed to achieve those goals.
  • Designate one or more individuals with overall responsibility for implementing and maintaining the program.
  • Provide sufficient resources to ensure effective program implementation.

Worker participation

  • Consult with workers in developing and implementing the program and involve them in updating and evaluating it.
  • Include employees in workplace inspections and incident investigations.
  • Encourage workers to report concerns such as hazards, injuries, illnesses, and near misses.
  • Protect the rights of workers who participate in the program.

Hazard identification and assessment

  • Identify, assess, and document workplace hazards by soliciting input from workers, inspecting the workplace, and reviewing available information on hazards.
  • Investigate injuries and illnesses to identify hazards that may have caused them.
  • Inform workers of the hazards.

Hazard prevention and control

  • Establish and implement a plan to prioritize and control identified hazards.
  • Provide interim controls to protect workers from any hazards that cannot be controlled immediately.
  • Verify that all control measures are implemented and are effective.
  • Discuss the hazard control plan with affected workers.

Education and training

  • Provide education and training to workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand. They should know:
    • Procedures for reporting injuries, illnesses, and safety and health concerns;
    • How to recognize hazards;
    • Ways to eliminate, control, or reduce hazards;
    • Elements of the program; and
    • How to participate.
  • Periodically conduct refresher education and training.

Program evaluation and improvement

  • Conduct a periodic review to determine if the program has been implemented as designed and is making progress toward its goals.
  • Modify the program as necessary to correct deficiencies.
  • Continuously look for ways to improve the program.

In a white paper on the subject, OSHA acknowledges that when it comes to worker protection, “every business is different and one size certainly does not fit all.” Employers should scale and adapt the program elements to meet the needs of their businesses, depending on size, industry sector, or complexity of operations.

The case for I2P2

I2P2 Q&A

As part of its information-sharing initiative on I2P2s, OSHA has published questions and answers.

What is the status of the proposal?
OSHA’s proposal is in its very early stages. We have conducted five stakeholder meetings all across the country. The next step is for us to gather comments from small businesses during the small business review process. That process will be followed by the publication of a proposal, a notice and comment period, and extensive public hearings.

Will a violation of an OSHA standard also be cited as a violation of the injury and illness prevention program or vice versa?
No.  A citation for violating an existing OSHA standard or for violating the general duty clause does not mean that an employer will also be cited for violating the I2P2.

What if I already have a manageable, commonsense injury and illness prevention program in place?
We are aware that many small and large businesses have effective I2P2s. Our primary goal in our proposal is to reach those employers that do not have an effective program. It is not the agency’s intention to require that employers who have previously implemented effective programs that share the basic elements of OSHA’s rule make unnecessary changes. We plan to issue a proposal that is sufficiently flexible to allow those programs to continue uninterrupted. OSHA has not written this proposal yet and we are still engaging with stakeholders and listening to their concerns.

The cost of worker injuries is staggering, and OSHA believes an approach with I2P2 at the center can save money. The agency estimates that implementing injury and illness prevention programs will reduce injuries by 15 percent to 35 percent for employers that do not currently have programs. At 15 percent, that would translate to a savings of $9 billion per year in workers’ compensation costs. A 35 percent reduction would yield a savings of $23 billion annually.

The financial incentive to protect employees is strong. According to the OSHA white paper, “Combined with insufficient workers’ compensation benefits and inadequate medical insurance, workplace injuries and illnesses cannot only cause physical pain and suffering, but also loss of employment and wages, burdensome debt, inability to maintain a previous standard of living, loss of home ownership, and even bankruptcy.”

OSHA points to data from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute, which reports the financial impact of the most disabling workplace injuries in a recent year at $53 billion. In addition to the direct costs, employers face a variety of indirect costs. These include:

  • Wages paid to injured workers for absences not covered by workers’ comp;
  • Wage costs related to time lost through work stoppage;
  • Administrative time spent by supervisors following injuries;
  • Employee training and replacement costs;
  • Lost productivity related to new employee learning curves and accommodation of injured employees; and
  • Replacement costs of damaged material, machinery, and property.

Other costs include those related to occupational illnesses that may not surface for years or decades following exposure.

OSHA offers evidence that I2P2s  reduce injuries and save money. For example:

  • Alaska had an I2P2 requirement for over 20 years. Five years after the program was implemented, the state saw a 17.4 percent decrease in injuries and illnesses.
  • A Colorado program lets companies adopt basic prevention components in return for a reduction in workers’ compensation premium. The annual decline in accidents was 23 percent, and the reduction in accident costs was about 60 percent.
  • Washington State began requiring establishments to have I2P2s in 1973. Five years later, the net decline in injuries and illnesses was 9.4 percent.

Such savings are not just for large organizations or employers. Participants in SHARP, an OSHA voluntary program for small employers with elements similar to those for I2P2s, showed impressive results. One study found that the average number of workers’ compensation claims for SHARP employers decreased by 52 percent, and the average claim cost dropped by 80 percent.

A different viewpoint

Dr. James Leemann is president of the Leemann Group, LLC (http://www.leemanngroup.com). The New Orleans-based consulting firm collaborates with industry and government on management issues around safety and environmental performance.

Leemann has doubts about OSHA’s proposal and the potential for businesses, especially smaller ones, to comply. He says that for large businesses, an I2P2 regulation will likely be seen as yet another duty to be performed by corporate safety and health specialists. “But when you get into small and medium-sized companies—of which there are a lot—they’re going to do whatever they can just to get by.”

Leemann cites two reasons small companies will be unlikely to hire experts to manage the I2P2.  The first is that it’s “not part of their strategic positioning” to have on-staff safety professionals. The second is that there is a current shortage of qualified safety professionals.

‘Not something we need’

Leemann sees little hope that an OSHA I2P2 rule would lead to a reduction in injuries or result in other anticipated benefits for businesses of any size. What’s more, he believes there could be unintended negative consequences, including financial ones. That’s the opposite of OSHA’s contention that I2P2s save money.

Another problem Leemann perceives is the impact on business owners who are sick of government regulation. For manufacturers, “It’s just too easy to make stuff somewhere else, [i.e. offshore], and that’s what’s going to happen. People are not going to be willing to take on the burden of this kind of regulation.”  Adding yet another government-required program just wouldn’t work, Leemann argues.

He acknowledges that business is generally OK with regulations that are “fair, balanced, and reasonable.” But that’s not what Leemann sees in the OSHA plan. He would prefer to see the agency move away from strong compliance in favor of a more robust counseling role. “At one point in the life of OSHA there was a belief that that’s what they were going to do, but somewhere it fell by the wayside. OSHA is the police force, end of story,” he says.

The California experiment

GOOD COMPANY

If you’re developing a written worker protection program, you’re in good company. Such plans are required by many U.S. states. The U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy have adopted this approach for protecting workers at military installations and at nuclear weapons facilities.

Canada, Australia, and all members of the European Union (EU) operate programs that either require employers to adopt injury and illness prevention programs or provide incentives or recognition to those who do so. Under a 1989 directive, EU member countries must have national legislation in place requiring employers to maintain risk identification and prevention programs that are similar to OSHA’s I2P2 concept.

U.S. companies operating internationally are familiar with these requirements and have already put in place programs to meet them. Many private workers’ compensation carriers offer incentives to employers with injury and illness prevention programs and provide technical assistance to help them implement their programs.

Learn more about the OSHA proposal at http://www.OSHA.gov. Enter I2P2 into the search box.

In 1991, the state of California passed legislation requiring businesses to implement an Injury & Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). Five years after implementation, there was a net decrease in injuries and illnesses of about 20 percent.

Covered establishments must have a written plan that includes procedures and is put into practice. Required elements are:

  • Management commitment/assignment of responsibilities,
  • Safety communication system with employees,
  • System for assuring employee compliance with safe work practices,
  • Scheduled inspections/evaluation system,
  • Accident investigation,
  • Procedures for correcting unsafe/ unhealthy conditions,
  • Safety and health training and instruction, and
  • Recordkeeping and documentation.

Vicky Heza has been a member of the Cal/OSHA staff since before the program began and has seen significant changes as a result of the IIPP requirement. Today, Heza is program manager for Cal/OSHA consultation. Like other state-run consultation programs, it offers free compliance assistance to small businesses.

“Having a written program is well and good,” Heza observes, “but if it’s sitting on a shelf gathering dust and is not being implemented effectively, it’s not helping to identify or reduce injuries and illnesses.” A typical consultation visit includes checking to see that the IIPP is in place and that all elements are in writing. “When we speak with employees we confirm that, in fact, the program is being effectively implemented. And as part of our confidential report to the employer we include an assessment of implementation and effectiveness of the program, tying it to specific examples in the workplace,” she says.

Heza sees the IIPP as a tool for benchmarking what’s actually happening on the shop floor. For employees, a written program provides a more comprehensive view of safety and health compared to a view of safety as a combination of individual regulations like confined space, machine guarding, etc. “It helps them see the big picture,” she observes. Heza says feedback from Cal/OSHA suggests that employees working under an IIPP feel more empowered and free to speak up about safety. “There is a sense that their employer cares and a higher level of consciousness about looking out for coworkers.”

How effective is the California program?

In 2012 the RAND Corporation published a study of the state’s IIPP requirement. The research was sponsored by the California Commission for Health, Safety, and Workers’ Compensation. IIPP has been the most frequently cited Cal/OSHA standard every year since 1991, when it started.

RAND found that the California IIPP rule reduces workplace injuries, but only at businesses cited for problems with specific safety mandates, not just for failures in complying with the IIPP. But according to the study, 80 percent of Cal/OSHA citations are for failure to properly comply with the IIPP. Citations for specific subsections (like lockout/tagout and confined space) occur in about only 5 percent of all inspections. Within that group, the total recordable injury rate fell by more than 20 percent in the 2 years following inspection. That translates to about one injury per year at a workplace with 100 employees.

The lead author of the RAND study characterized the safety effects of the program as real but not very large. “We think that the most important reason for the limited impact of this program is that inspectors often did not go beyond a review of the employer’s written document,” he said.

Are you ready?

As federal OSHA continues to move toward a formal I2P2 proposal, many employers are reviewing their own safety processes with an eye to the stated program elements. Chances are that if you are reading this article you are already among those who recognize the value of elements like management commitment, employee involvement, hazard identification, and training.

Continue to watch Safety.BLR.com for updates as the federal proposal develops. If an injury and illness prevention program becomes law, make sure you’re prepared with a sound written program that reflects OSHA’s priorities and your own risks. Hopefully, it will achieve the ambitious injury reductions and financial savings OSHA anticipates.

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