Courtesy of Succeed Management Solutions LLC
Just last year a safety manager was sentenced to more than six years in prison for “falsifying records of workplace injuries.” The reason? The former safety manager used the falsified injury and illness records to obtain bonuses of more than $2.5 million.
At the time, Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, issued the following comment on the verdict: “Injured workers were denied or delayed medical treatment. Underlying workplace safety issues went unaddressed. There is a better way. A comprehensive injury and illness prevention program in which employers commit to finding and fixing hazards can achieve real safety in the workplace.”
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) seems to believe that Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPPs) are that “better way,” as the administration has recently been placing an enhanced emphasis on such programs. An IIPP is simply a basic written workplace safety program. An effective IIPP should:
- Fully involve all employees, supervisors and management.
- Identify the specific workplace hazards to which employees are exposed.
- Correct identified hazards in an appropriate and timely manner.
OSHA advocates developing and implementing a comprehensive IIPP. Such programs are considered to be an important step to staying compliant with OSHA standards, reducing costs associated with injuries and protecting workers. IIPPs are required in 15 states and are a best practice that can prevent losses and reduce the total cost of risk for organizations. OSHA has identified IIPPs as “the foundation for breakthrough changes in the way employers identify and control hazards, leading to a significantly improved workplace health and safety environment.”
With the roll-out of its Consultation Program for small and mid-sized businesses, OSHA has been evaluating workplaces for safety hazards and helping to establish IIPPs to ensure workplace compliance with OSHA standards. However, in addition to improving workers’ safety, many safety managers are learning that IIPPs can influence their companies’ bottom line. Recently, OSHA cited a study from the September 2013 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine that shows a “link between occupational safety and health and improved financial performance.” The study shows that there’s a pronounced correlation between a strong safety culture and improved stock market value.
Challenges to Implementation
If IIPPs are such a significant tool for improving workplace health and safety, why aren’t all workplaces implementing such programs? Company culture and employee behavior are the two biggest challenges to address to improve safety within a company. Truly fixing a company’s cultural problems means developing accountability systems and reaching out to involve employees. Since owners and executives are usually furthest removed from the employees, front-line supervisors have to be on board and active.
When developing an IIPP, organizations can begin by identifying unsafe behaviors and developing a system of employee observation—this is where supervisors play a critical role. Since most employees do not perform unsafe behaviors because they wish to get hurt, companies can pinpoint the barriers that are preventing employees from working in a safe manner. Most companies with good safety records understand that when employees are injured, they were usually pursuing other goals.
An effective IIPP is more than a binder of policies and procedures. An IIPP needs to come alive in driving the culture of an organization. Developing a powerful and effective IIPP can substantially reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, while outlining safety responsibilities and accountabilities.
To learn more, visit https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/safetyhealth/.
About the Author
Succeed is a provider of web-based Enterprise Risk Management solutions. Thousands of organizations use the Succeed Risk Management Center to improve their risk management programs, employee safety training programs, and regulatory compliance, and to reduce workplace incidents, claims and costs. To learn more about IIPP development and the Risk Management Center, please visit www.succeedms.com or contact Jason.H@succeedms.com.