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Does your employer have an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program?

While in many respects, today's workplaces are safer than ever, every year thousands of California workers are injured or killed. In many cases, workplace injuries result when employers fail to take measures to adequately address safety. The vast majority of workplace injuries are preventable and in California, employers must take steps to establish an Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

Workers who suffer injuries while performing work-related duties often suffer tremendous physical pain and financial losses. When seeking treatment for an injury, medical bills can quickly total into the tens of thousands of dollars. For example, according to the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California, the average costs associated with a slip and fall work injury total $62,000 and for a back injury, $50,000.

Given the significant personal costs to workers and costs associated with lost productivity for California employers, everyone benefits when safety is a priority in the workplace. Employers who are able to create effective IIPPs must ensure the following factors are taken into consideration and addressed:

• Ensure workers are able to speak up about and report safety concerns and hazards and that processes are in place to take action
• Provide employees with appropriate safety gear and equipment
• Provide education about specific work safety hazards and training on steps workers can take to avoid injuries
• Establish an effective means of communicating relevant safety information with employees on a regular basis
• Establish protocols for and clearly communicate what workers should do in the event of a workplace accident, injury or emergency

In cases where employers fail to establish a sufficient and effective IIPP, workplace hazards may go unreported and unaddressed and workers may not know about certain safety issues and how to avoid injury. Employees who suffer an injury at work are entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits. Additionally, depending on the circumstances, a worker may also choose to pursue legal action.

Source: State of California Department of Industrial Relations, "Guide to Developing Your Workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Program with checklists for self-inspection," Feb. 18, 2015

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