OSHA released an update to their regulatory agenda on May 23, 2014, and there’s one change that’s caused quite a few raised eyebrows. The Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule (known as I2P2), once heralded as a top priority, has been demoted to a long-term action. I2P2 would require employers to create an injury and illness prevention program, with the goal of identifying and attempting to eliminate workplace hazards and create a safer work environment. Sounds great! So what happened?
The rulemaking process for I2P2 has seen numerous delays since it was first introduced, yet OSHA chief David Michaels has repeatedly claimed over the years that I2P2 is of the utmost importance to the agency. This latest move seems to contradict those claims, leaving many businesses unsure what to make of these mixed signals.
I2P2 emerged on the horizon early in David Michaels’ career as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. Michaels took on the job in December 2009, and I2P2 was introduced in April 2010. Between June and August of that year OSHA held five stakeholder meetings across the country to solicit feedback on I2P2. It was a strong start…but, given the controversy that new regulations often face, the I2P2 momentum died down quite a bit during the run up to the 2012 presidential election.
In OSHA’s 2013 regulatory agenda the agency once again labeled I2P2 as a key regulation to move forward and in a February 4, 2013 speech to staff David Michaels stated that the I2P2 initiative remained the agency’s No. 1 priority. Yet little discernible progress was made, with the date for the proposed rule’s release being pushed back several times. In a May 16-2013 letter to President Barack Obama the ASSE urged the President to direct his Administration to move forward with the I2P2 standard. The letter addressed the stalled rulemaking process, stating that “a national debate on that standard is much needed and long overdue.” One year later, not much has changed.
So what’s the cause of this apparent shift in priorities? One view is that this is a reflection of limited resources more than anything else. With a lot on OSHA’s plate – including three final rules to be announced before October 14 – the recent decision to push I2P2 may have been about focusing on getting existing rulemakings through to the final rule status before issuing a new proposed rule for I2P2 that is likely to monopolize their staff’s time and the public’s attention, creating a big splash.
“My take on it, and that of other attorneys I’ve talked to, is that it’s more of a bandwidth issue,” attorney Tressi Cordaro recently told Safety.BLR.com. Cordaro specializes in OSHA matters in Washington, D.C., and her comments support this theory of limited resources. Another theory is that OSHA has decided that I2P2 is more trouble than it’s worth. However, as David Michaels has noted many times before, new OSHA regulations are rarely welcome universally with open arms, and the rulemaking process can often be slow-going. These comments are particularly true in the instance of I2P2, given just how many businesses would be affected by the rule.
For now, the date for publication has been left open and “to be determined,” and there’s no date listed for OSHA’s next steps. It is now safe to say that the rule won’t be enacted before the end of President Obama’s term in January 2017.
Reactions to I2P2 are mixed – as they are with most proposed OSHA regulations – and so reactions to this delay are equally mixed. However, what’s important to note is that virtually all stakeholders agree that Injury and Illness Prevention Programs are a good idea in and of themselves. Where people begin to disagree is when it comes to setting out mandated requirements for such a program.
The next steps for U.S. businesses looking to get ahead should be to ensure they have a good, solid Injury and Illness Prevention Program in place – regardless of whether or not I2P2 ever becomes a legal requirement. As OSHA has stated time and time again, these programs result in fewer injuries, improved compliance with existing regulations, and significant reductions in workers’ compensation premiums. In fifteen states, companies are already required to have some form of a safety management system in place for this reason.
To learn more about why an injury and illness program makes good business sense, check out OSHA’s whitepaper. You can also learn from companies who are leading by example in Intelex’s Case Studies in EHS Management whitepaper, where Virgin Atlantic Airways, Campbell’s Soup Company and others share how they’re using EHS software to build world class environment, health and safety programs.
To hear more about our reaction to this latest development in the I2P2 storyline you can check out the June 13, 2014 edition of Intelex’s EHS This Week podcast, where we cover the top headlines in the world of environment, health and safety!