No one plans on getting hurt or getting sick. But only some professionals plan on not getting hurt or sick. In other words, although virtually every employer wants to protect their workforce, not every organization has an injury and illness prevention program (IIPP) in place.
As with many topics related to environmental health and safety, IIPPs are about the difference between aspiration and intention. When we aspire to do something, we try our best and hope we succeed. When we intend to do it, we hold ourselves accountable for success.
That may seem like a subtle distinction, but accountability saves lives—and money. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, an IIPP can reduce incidences of injury and illness by as much as 35%. And in California, New York, and other states that mandate or incentivize IIPPs, organizations save between $9 billion and $23 billion per year in workers’ compensation costs.
All of which is to say that an IIPP is a good idea whether or not your state requires you have one. Here are a few considerations for developing and implementing an effective and accountability-driven program:
1. Have a Plan and Write It Down
Let’s start with the basics. First, read up on your organization’s responsibilities. Does your state mandate IIPPs? Some states do, others don’t. Still others have additional rules and exemptions for employers of certain sizes, employers in “hazardous” industries (such as mining and construction), and employers with higher-than-average experience modifiers.
Make sure to learn about any specific IIPP requirements or guidelines in your state. In California, for instance, all employers are required to develop and implement IIPPs that cover 8 elements:
- Hazard Assessment
- Accident/Exposure Investigation
- Hazard Correction
- Training and Instruction
Next, create a written IIPP that a) identifies any and all hazards present in your workplace and b) explains what steps your facilities will take to prevent, address, and resolve incidents. Your plan should also include information about training and the individual or department responsible for leading the program.
2. Train Your Workforce
The success of your IIPP depends on the actions (or inaction) of your workforce. Train all employees on every single hazard they may face at work, and train your managers on proper incident response. Training should occur a) for every new employee, on or before their first day on the job, and b) every time a new hazard is introduced to the workplace. Make sure all training records are complete and keep them available and easily accessible.
3. Hold Safety Committee Meetings on a Regular Basis
Just as hazards and regulations change, so too may your IIPP. Keep your plan up to date by regularly reviewing it and, when necessary, revising it. Consider establishing a safety committee comprised of members of leadership and management, as well as employee representative(s) if appropriate. This committee should meet on a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly basis to review and update the IIPP.
4. Document Everything
Documentation is essential for incident reporting and IIPP reviewing purposes. Keep comprehensive and timely records and documents on training, injuries, illnesses, investigations, committee meetings, changes to your IIPP, and every other event related to your program.