Get on board with OSHA's safety programs

Every day, more than a dozen workers die on the job in the United States.

That bit of information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics' "Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary" (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm).

China's State Administration of Work Safety reports more than 200 work-related deaths per day, while other countries fall somewhere in between the two.

OSHA (www.osha.gov) has helped U.S. companies to make great strides in creating safer work environments. Since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law in 1970, workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries have dropped by more than 60%.

Yeah. Pretty awesome.

OSHA uses the term, "Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2)," to describe an organized approach to a better, safer workplace that reduces the number and the severity of injuries and illnesses. Many industrial plants already have adopted this approach as part of OSHA's cooperative programs, often times realizing a culture change that breeds improvements in not just safety, but productivity and quality, not to mention higher employee satisfaction and reduced costs and turnover.

These programs all include management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification and assessment, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement.

OSHA’s existing Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) recognizes employers who improve health and safety in their workplaces beyond federal standards. By passing the application process and maintaining low injury and illness rates, sites become exempt from OSHA inspections.

The VPP hasn’t eluded criticism, however, due to inclusion of companies that didn’t merit it. Plus, OSHA’s 2013 budget request makes for a decrease in funds for compliance assistance, although the overall agency funding request is higher. OSHA blames the rapid growth of VPP for its difficulty to find a balance of its compliance and enforcement efforts, given the limited available resources.

In late June, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Workforce Protections (http://edworkforce.house.gov/Committee/wp.htm) held a hearing, “Promoting Safe Workplaces Through Voluntary Protection Programs,” which you can view in its entirety at http://edworkforcehouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=99.

The VPP is an effective approach to creating safer workplaces that reduce costs. The idea of the I2P2 standard was first introduced more than two years ago. If you aren’t on board, get on board. OSHA’s white paper on I2P2 is a great place to start. Download it at http://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/safetyhealth/OSHAwhite-paper-january2012sm.pdf.