As promised, the head of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued some new prevention programs and guidelines for businesses.
Last year, OSHA head David Michaels promised a white paper detailing the agency’s plans to develop an injury and illness prevention program (I2P2) standard. OSHA recently published the first of those white papers, outlining regulators’ proposal to require companies to develop their own I2P2s.
For OSHA, the timing of the white paper couldn’t be better – a group recently published a critique of California OSHA’s (Cal/OSHA) I2P2 standard, which the feds are using as a model for their upcoming regulation.
OSHA outlines benefits
Michaels and company have made no secret of the fact that an I2P2 reg is a top priority for the agency.
OSHA says companies that implement I2P2s can expect to see a yearly drop in injuries of between 15% and 35%. That equates to between $9 billion and $23 billion in annual workers’ compensation savings.
Some of the other benefits of I2P2s, according to OSHA:
- better employee morale and job satisfaction
- improved retention of employees
- reduced costs, and
- increased productivity.
Programs already in place
Opponents of an I2P2 rule argue that thousands of companies are already required to create their own injury prevention programs. These include employers in the 15 states where state OSHA programs mandate I2P2s and 10 additional states where safety agencies encourage companies to develop programs.
Additionally, industry groups, including the American National Standards Institute, have published voluntary injury prevention programs.
Finally, two of OSHA’s assistance programs – the Voluntary Protection Program and the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) — include programs similar to the proposed I2P2 regs.
Impact on small business
Much of the criticism surrounding the I2P2 proposal comes from small businesses that say implementing a safety management program would be time-consuming and expensive.
OSHA combats these claims in the white paper by looking at small businesses in SHARP. Authors said small employers in that program experienced benefits, including:
- improved regulatory compliance
- a better work environment with a greater emphasis on safety, and
- an improved reputation among employees and the community.
The white paper also includes case studies of companies with I2P2 programs, as well as a state-by-state breakdown of current I2P2 rules.
California program questioned
But while OSHA is singing the praises of I2P2, a California study says similar regulations already on the books in that state have done little to protect workers.
Authors found that the standard, enacted in 1991, has done little to encourage companies to develop I2P2s, though 25% of Cal/OSHA’s inspections result in an I2P2 violation.
What’s more, companies with I2P2 violations actually had fewer injuries than employers who complied.
That study was conducted by the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace for the California Commission for Health, Safety and Workers’ Compensation.