CAUTIONARY TALES EPISODE 14 « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Workplace Illness and Injury Prevention Programs are Mandatory in California

On July 10, 2018, Cal/OSHA issued a press release that is a stark reminder of the need for an Illness and Injury Prevention Program (IIPP) both on paper and in practice. Cal/OSHA cited SSA Pacific Inc., a marine cargo handler in San Diego, for safety violations that resulted in the death of a longshoreman at the Port of San Diego after a forklift accident. The citations total a proposed $205,235.

The press release describes what appears to be negligence on the part of the deceased worker in running the forklift into a concrete support column. Cal/OSHA cited the employer because the worker was not wearing a seatbelt and several safety devices on the forklift were disabled. The agency also faulted employer for lack of maintenance, inspection, training and safety checks. The citation also included the unrelated violation of not having an effective heat illness prevention plan. It classified the violations as willful (intentional and knowing) and/or serious (realistic possibility serious harm or death could result).

Fatalities of this nature also often result in wrongful death lawsuits.

While many employers do not have such potentially dangerous equipment in their businesses, California law requires all employers to have an IIPP. As Cal/OSHA did not cite the employer for lack of an IIPP, we can assume the company had one but was not following it. An IIPP must include: assignment of responsibilities to specific staff; a system for effective safety communications; an employee compliance system; accident investigations; correction procedures for non-compliant conditions; training and instruction on safety and health; and documentation/recordkeeping. Having and actually implementing an IIPP protects workers from injury or death, thereby also avoiding expensive repercussions to the employer.

The law allows employers with fewer than 10 employees to address most requirements in a simpler way, with oral instruction “in general safe work practices with specific instructions with respect to hazards unique to the employees’ job assignments” and other reduced record-keeping rules.

Cal/OSHA has many tools available to assist businesses, including a guide to creating an IIPP, and sample IIPPs for high hazard employers, non-high hazard employers, intermittent workers, and workplace security. Employers also can seek assistance from an attorney in preparing an IIPP and should have the attorney review any self-drafted IIPPs.

Of course, having an IIPP on paper will accomplish nothing if the business does not implement it. The savings in safe and healthy workers and avoided fines and lawsuits is well worth it.

For further information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin

July 19, 2018