When Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis resigned her position, the talk became what might happen to OSHA’s planned Injury/Illness Prevention Standard (I2P2). Secretary Solis had announced this initiative in early 2010. The stated purpose was to require employers to establish a plan that would prevent violations of OSHA standards and that would protect workers from violations of their workplace rights.
You may recall that this initiative was earlier known in OSHA as Safety & Health Program Management and was a guidance document. The political leadership, frustrated by their promise to add a lot of new standards, turned to this issue as a way to generate a standard that would bear their legacy.
We were guessing that the OSHA political leadership changed the name to make this regulatory initiative appear attractive and benign.
In the January 10, 2013 online edition of Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, I2P2 and what might become of it with Secretary Solis’s departure was addressed. A restatement of the purposes was presented of the objectives of this initiative as it was initially presented by Secretary Solis in the spring of 2010.
As I read this article, I recalled earlier comments that the OSHA political leadership must have thought they were being exceedingly clever in changing the name from Safety & Health Program Management to Injury/Illness Prevention Program.
Will I2P2 as OSHA has outlined it so far actually “prevent” injuries and illnesses or even violations of standards?
Safety & Health Program Management was originally devised by safety professionals to create an organized structure to manage safety and health efforts. The intent was/is certainly to improve safety and health efforts by a structured organizational process, but “prevention?” Directionally, sure. But absolutely? No-- not absolutely or predictably. But when the term “Prevention” becomes a legal requirement for the political agenda leadership to exploit, it has ominous implications.
If an injury/illness or any violation of a standard occurs, is that now Willful? The political leadership has classified any violations of some standards as “Serious”. If the title of this standard is “Prevention”, how can they issue only a Serious citation on finding any violations of standards or any occurrences of injuries or illnesses?
The outcome will be a spike in citations and in shaming press releases denouncing employers for lack of safety prevention leadership. What about the safety professionals who design and support safety and health programs management for their employers? When these citations occur, will their careers be in jeopardy?
What about consultant safety professionals who design and provide support to safety programs for their clients? Will the courts consider it malpractice if injuries/illness or standards violations occur?
It has been speculated that the real intent of the OSHA political leadership is to use I2P2 as a basis for interpretations of requirements that will circumvent the standards setting process and empower the OSHA political leadership to issue as interpretations as onerous and ever changing requirements on employers. Of course, who has to then sort all of that out and recommend practical compliance approaches for our workplaces—safety professionals?
The term “Prevention” is what we all work toward in safety and health. However, that term is not appropriate as language in a government regulation with potentially extreme interpretations and enforced by a “New Sheriff in Town” political agenda that primarily celebrates citations and shaming press releases.
(Note: Views expressed in this column are Tom Lawrence’s views only for stimulation of thought and discussion among safety professionals. They are not reflective of official views of the St. Louis Chapter of ASSE).