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What is OSHA?

Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It was established to help ensure employees safe and healthy working conditions by enforcing a set of government-mandated standards while also providing training, continued education, assistance, and outreach. OSHA is also responsible for issuing licenses, permits, certifications, approvals, and registrations. This article is specifically focused on the requirements set forth by Cal/OSHA guidelines, which refers to the OSHA guidelines currently in place within California.

Related: What is OSHA, and What Does it Stand For?

What to Know About Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)

An Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP) is a universal intervention program required by OSHA that helps to reduce instances and severity of workplace accidents and injuries. It also helps to protect employers from financial liabilities if an employee does become injured on the job. Some new IIPP standards have been put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has shaped workplace operations over the past year. All of this will be discussed in more detail below, so please continue reading to find out more.

Related: Tips for Creating an Effective Workplace Safety Training Program

How do IIPPs Work and What are Their Benefits?

A wall of several multicolored construction hardhats.

IIPPs make use of common sense regarding the operations of businesses to find and protect against potential safety hazards within a workplace. Participation from both management and a business’s general workforce is critical to developing a quality IIPP that can effectively keep people safe from accidental injury. These plans benefit companies and their employees by providing safe and healthy working conditions, reducing the frequency of injury and illness, reducing rates for worker’s compensation insurance, boosting employee morale, and increasing overall business productivity.

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Developing an Effective IIPP

A worker in a hazmat suit handling bottles of chemicals in a warehouse.

OSHA has several specific requirements that come along with developing an effective work injury prevention plan for business. All IIPPs must recognize and adhere to these government-mandated standards to help ensure employee safety and the protection of employers from potential financial liability. The following three sections detail the specific elements that must be included in all IIPPs, some of the best methods that can be used to implement these plans, and some essential workplace practices identified by Cal/OSHA. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic that has significantly impacted businesses worldwide, the state of California has required that IIPPs are updated to address COVID-19 health impacts and government mandates effectively.

The Eight Required Elements 

OSHA mandated IIPPs have eight required elements to ensure that they will effectively protect employees from potential injury and illness while also protecting employers from the financial liabilities that come with worker’s compensation claims. These elements form the foundation for a top-quality injury and illness prevention plan. Without considering each of them, a business’s IIPP is unlikely to protect employers and employees effectively. The eight requirements include:

  1. Hazard Assessment
  2. Communication
  3. Responsibility
  4. Compliance
  5. Accident/Exposure Investigation
  6. Training and Instruction
  7. Recordkeeping
  8. Hazard Correction

Related: Cal/OSHA Emergency Workplace COVID-19 Regulation: What It Really Means

Six Steps to Implementation Success

Generally speaking, there are six essential steps that businesses should put into place when implementing their IIPPs, especially since the outbreak of COVID-19. It’s critical to ensure that these plans are put into place as effectively as possible and that they work to sufficiently protect all parties belonging to and operating within a business. These six steps to implementation success include:

  1. Not only should all employees be fully aware of the IIPP, its procedures, and the requirements that it places on them, but they should also understand how to submit information on new hazards and report an official accident or injury in the event of a workplace mishap. Training should be provided on all of these elements to every employee, no matter their job, position, or status within the business.
  2. Upper management needs to lead by example when implementing IIPPs. It’s their responsibility to ensure that they follow all procedures and guidelines to encourage lower-level staff to do the same thing. If employees see their managers or supervisors skirting the rules of the IIPP, they will be more likely to do so as well.
  3. All employees must have their specific responsibilities defined, and they must also be held accountable if IIPP protocols and procedures are not adhered to. This accountability element is especially essential for supervisors and managers.
  4. All accidents and near-miss incidents must be treated with the seriousness and respect they deserve. All of them will need to be investigated so that employers can understand what took place, why the incident occurred, and what employees can do to prevent such accidents or near-misses in the future.
  5. Detailed records of all incidents or potential incidents should be written up and filed away. These documents should include investigation reports, intended corrective actions, disciplinary actions enacted on responsible parties, recommendations or changes to training regiments, and any other preventative steps decided upon.
  6. Cal/OSHA strongly recommends that all injury and illness prevention plans be routinely reviewed, evaluated, and updated to ensure that they are as effective as possible in preserving the health and safety of workplace employees.

CAL/OSHA Requirements: Four Key Workplace Practices

According to the government experts at Cal/OSHA, there are four specific workplace practices that employers should work to implement to ensure that their work injury prevention program is as effective in practice as it is on paper. These practices include:

  1. Providing adequate training to all employees (both general training and station-specific training) to help keep them safe from potential accidents and injury.
  2. Fully involving all members of staff, including management, supervisors, and general employees.
  3. Working to identify all workplace hazards (both general and specific) that employees are or may potentially be exposed to.
  4. Actively working to address and correct these workplace hazards in a timely and appropriate manner.

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