I2P2 – Not Quite a done deal

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been working on a new initiative called Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2). This initiative would require employers to identify workplace health and safety hazards on their own and take action to resolve those hazards. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels said the rule “represents the most fundamental change in workplace culture since the passage of the OSHA Act.”

OSHA has been working to gain public support through stakeholder meetings and has been actively promoting the initiative in many public speeches. This initiative is due to the fact that OSHA does not have the manpower to prevent every workplace accident. “It would take over 100 years for OSHA to visit every workplace under its jurisdiction,” Michaels said. “OSHA believes that workers will be better protected if each employer has a proactive plan to find and fix hazards in their workplaces so that workers don’t get hurt.”

However, business and labor are preparing to wage a lobbying battle over the new I2P2 rule. Members of the Coalition for Workplace Safety, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, have grown concerned about the rule.

“This would be the most sweeping regulation that OSHA has ever put out,” said Marc Freedman, the Chamber’s executive director of labor law policy. Freedman believes the rule could require employers to identify all hazards in the workplace, even ones not already mitigated for by OSHA.

“It is intended to help employers develop a systematic plan to find and fix workplace hazards that are currently covered under OSHA standards or that are currently covered under the General Duty Clause,” Michaels said. The rule “changes the dynamic where OSHA doesn’t have to go rule-by-rule. Instead, employers are asked to identify hazards in their own workplace and asked to fix them,” said Charles Jeffress, now the chief operational officer for the American Association for Justice, a trial lawyers’ trade group.

Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO’s director of health and safety, called the rule “a framework” that should help employers find those hazards before they can do harm to their employees. “You are looking at problems, trying to identify them and address them before workers get hurt,” Seminario said about the rule.

It is evident that people are polarized about what I2P2 will mean for companies. Some feel that by forcing companies to be more proactive and assess their unique hazards and work on how to minimize those hazards will ultimately make for safer working conditions. However, others feel that this initiative is setting up companies for fines and penalties due to a lack of clear rules and regulations.