I2P2 & Employee Engagement

| March 29, 2011

Last week I gave a presentation to an industry group on OSHA’s proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) rule.  In my presentation, I focused on the requirements for worker participation within an OHSMS. 

One of the questions OSHA raised in its original I2P2 proposal was –

What mechanisms have been found to be effective for enabling employees to participate in safety and health in the workplace?

Worker participation is one of the areas where there are significant differences between OHSAS 18001 and both ANSI Z10 and OSHA VPP.

OSHA VPP and ANSI Z10 focus on employee participation, as defined by the technicality of labor law.  OHSAS 18001 focuses instead on worker participation, as defined by the extent of the organization’s control over the work being performed. 

For OHSAS 18001, the greater the organizational control over the work, the greater the need for evaluating and controlling the associated OH&S risks.  The technicalities of who an individual works for are viewed as secondary to protecting individuals within the workplace from occupational injury and ill health. 

Employment arrangements come into play in determining the appropriate controls not in determining whether or not particular OH&S risks should be addressed in the first place.  For example, for non-employee workers, the appropriate management system controls may focus on establishing pre-contract qualifications for contractors and contractor oversight arrangements rather than internal operational control procedures and employee training programs.

Today, non-employees make up an increasing percentage of all workers.  According to a recent workforce trends study, 80 percent of employers said they expected the size of their non-employee workforce to stay the same or increase.  In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discussing this trend, Bill Kahnweiler, an associate professor at Georgia State University, is quoted as saying  –

“It’s about money.  Companies want more flexibility and less risk moving forward.  They want to hire talent as they need it and not be burdened with full-employment costs.  It’s cheaper to hire contingent workers.”

Dangerous work, in particular, is routinely outsourced.  Catastrophic accidents – such as the explosion at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico – often involve multiple organizations and complex employment arrangements.  Investigations of catastrophic events by the The Chemical Safety Board often attribute blame to the failure of contractors to take adequate safety precautions.

The Department of Labor has recognized that its traditional narrow focus on the employment arrangement needs to change.  In its report, the Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations stated that the definition of an employee needs to be streamlined and updated and the “joint employer” doctrine should be expanded in matters associated with occupational safety and health.  This report states – “because of the crucial importance of occupational safety and health, the client should be responsible for ensuring that its contractors meet the relevant legal standards regarding unsafe conditions or practices to which the worker may be exposed.”

Safety in the workplace should not depend on employment status.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2011)

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Category: OHS Laws & Legal Compliance, OHSMS Implementation

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