It has been almost two years since Department of Labor Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis enthusiastically announced the DOL’s “Plan/Prevent/ Protect” compliance strategy, a key component of its Good Jobs for Everyone vision. The goal of Plan/Prevent/Protect is to “ensure employers and other regulated entities are in full compliance with the law every day, not just when Department inspectors come calling.” OSHA has been a significant component of the initiative. Two years later, it is useful to look back on the progress OSHA has made.

A centerpiece of Plan/Prevent/Protect is a rulemaking announced by OSHA to require employers to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). This would have employers search for and address workplace safety and health hazards at their places of business. The following elements are typical of IIPPs:

  • Management Leadership
  • Employee Participation
  • Risk Identification and Prioritization
  • Hazard Control
  • Education and Training
  • Evaluation and Continuous Improvement

A mandatory federal IIPP rule likely would resemble ones implemented by several states, most notably California (see gov/dosh/dosh_publications/iipp.html).

OSHA’s IIPP initiative was announced with great fanfare, but it has stalled within the agency. For more than a year, OSHA has been saying it would initiate the necessary Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) process for the rule. It has yet to do so. Not only is it unclear when OSHA will release an initial regulatory approach to the IIPP rule, but a proposed rule (and, thus, a final rule) probably is several years away.

Meanwhile, OSHA has been busy with other regulatory priorities that affect employers. In particular, it has published a final rule bringing its Hazard Communication standard into accord with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) (see the related article in this issue).

OSHA, like other DOL agencies, also is continuing to maintain historically high enforcement levels. The agency is bringing significant cases and, as a result of its enhanced administrative penalties memorandum, employers are seeing higher proposed penalties. From a conceptual standpoint, OSHA’s enforcement efforts serve the Plan/ Prevent/Protect strategy’s goal of forcing employers to “find and fix” issues at the workplace on their own, without “prompting” from the Department.

Employers cannot afford to relax their safety and health programs, regardless of the status of Plan/Prevent/Protect, IIPP or any other OSHA rulemaking. Employers should consider the following actions to ensure compliance:

  • Review worksites for uncontrolled hazards;
  • Examine recordkeeping logs and other incident
  • reports for areas of concern;
  • Engage employees and front-line supervisors
  • in hazard identification and control; and
  • Control and review annually the effectiveness
  • of safety and health efforts.