Your IIPP is in place. You’ve met Cal/OSHA’s regulations and are ready to present your IIPP the next time an inspector drops by for a visit. Now it’s time to bring your safety plan to the next level.
Creating a successful IIPP doesn’t stop with meeting the Cal/OSHA regulation. This is a living document that literally spells out to your employees how you intend to keep them safe and productive on the job. It also spells out how you work to prevent workplace injuries and the costs—both direct and indirect—that come with those injuries.
So how do you create a successful IIPP? We offer six steps to get you there:
1. Involve your employees
What better way to establish a workplace safety plan than to consult with and rely on those who are on the front lines every day, doing the work that keeps your operation going? Their perspective is invaluable and they can point you to hazards you might not be aware of. Ask your employees to assist not only in seeking out existing and potential hazards at your workplace, but also in establishing the steps necessary to address those hazards.
When your workers are involved in setting up your IIPP, they take ownership of the plan. They may also be willing to help lead safety meetings and to coach coworkers on the safest steps to take in completing a task. Involving workers in this process helps improve employee morale and motivates them to stay safe on the job. With improved employee morale, you not only get increased retention, you tend to have lower absenteeism, higher productivity, and improvements in work quality.
2. Upper management leads by example
You may have heard the phrase “if you talk the talk, you must walk the walk.” For small businesses, make sure you understand what’s in your IIPP and follow it. For larger organizations, you might need to get your leadership team together to review the IIPP and make sure everyone understands it and agrees to follow it.
The last thing you want is for your employees to see you violating the safety processes you and they worked so hard to put in place. First, that can damage morale. Second, if your employees see you walk into a hard hat area without a hard hat, or not wear a respirator in area where the air is full of contaminants, they may choose not to follow the rules either. You’d be sending a message that rules aren’t important. This could lead to an unsafe workplace, more injuries, illnesses, absences, claims, and costs for your business. Take the time to follow the rules, even if you need to enter the work area for just a minute or two.
3. Clearly define responsibilities and accountability for supervisors
A lot of the success or failure of your IIPP depends on how well your front-line supervisors implement their responsibilities under the program. Supervisors, including foremen and site leads, have key responsibilities for every element of the IIPP. If they don’t provide staff appropriate job specific training, employees won’t know how to perform their jobs safely. If supervisors don’t monitor for compliance with safe work practices and correct unsafe behavior when they observe it, employees will start to ignore the safety rules put in place for their protection. If supervisors don’t encourage two-way communication during safety meetings, employees won’t feel their input is appreciated or valued and they will stop caring about the success of the program. If supervisors prioritize production goals and meeting deadlines over doing the job safely, then employees can get hurt. To employees, supervisors are the most visible reflection of the safety culture of the organization. It is important that front line supervisors understand this and exhibit the same safety leadership that top managers must show.
4. Investigate all accidents and near-miss incidents
One of the best predictors of a future workplace injury is one that has already happened or one that almost happened (near miss). Thoroughly investigate all workplace accidents and near misses and involve your employees too. They can provide a unique perspective as to why something happened. Being on the front line, employees can witness accidents. Our Accident/Near Miss Investigation Checklist can help you document your findings.
Your investigation should always dig down to the root cause or causes of the accident or near miss. Sure, an employee might have taken a shortcut to get the job done. But, there may also have been a malfunction in a piece of equipment that wasn’t caught, or a safety precaution hadn’t been implemented yet. And, always investigate a near miss the same way you would for a workplace injury. You might be able to identify a hazard and make changes before someone gets hurt.