“Injury and illness prevention programs are a better approach than safety incentive programs,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels in his American Society of Safety Engineers webinar in May. “Already, workers have lots of incentives to work safely. We don’t need incentives. We need strong safety and health programs.”

Given this perspective, OSHA’s accelerated effort to adopt an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) standard makes sense. Once adopted, the standard would require all U.S. employers to have company I2P2s, something that, incredibly, is not required under current regulations. Michaels said he wants the standard in place within three years, a lightning pace if judged by OSHA’s past standard adoption performance.

Through its effort to require injury and illness prevention programs at all work sites, OSHA hopes to bring much added focus to the question of what constitutes an effective safety and health program. The basic purpose of an I2P2 is identification and assessment of hazards and the institution of prevention measures. Good data collection is one aspect; so is worker involvement and top-management attention. Training is also critical.

“Safe work is more important than reporting,” said Michaels, who stressed that employers’ drive for low, reported injury and illness rates has corrupted the data and masked the extent of the nation’s workplace safety and health problems. “We want programs that reward workers for working safely, identifying hazards and abating them. A good I2P2 is a better approach than an incentive program.”

During June, OSHA convened three sessions to receive public comment on its proposed I2P2 standard. The LHSFNA participated and is working with the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO to develop an I2P2 rule specific to the construction industry. Eventually, the key components of a solid safety program will be codified in the new standard.

Michaels also urged companies to use government safety consultation services that are provided at the state level, and he praised Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) companies that strongly pursue safety programs and safe workplaces. He advised all companies to develop I2P2s and to engage their workers and supervisors in the process.

The LHSFNA’s Occupational Health and Safety Division provides support to LIUNA signatory employers who want help developing company- and site-specific safety programs. It can be reached at 202-628-5465.

 [Steve Clark]