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California requires injury and illness prevention programs

Every year, there are hundreds of workplace deaths and thousands more work-related injuries. In 2009, there were 409 work-related deaths in California. When an individual suffers an injury, illness or death that is work-related, they are often entitled to workers' compensation benefits under California law.

Workers' compensation may allow the employee to receive one or more of the following benefits including medical benefits, disability benefits and/or death benefits.

Unsafe work environments cause many workplace injuries. California employers are required to not only implement but also maintain an injury and illness prevention program. If employers do not create these programs and document their maintenance, they can be subjected to high monetary fines.

There are a few requirements that must be met by these programs. These requirements include the following:

· Appointment of a specific person in charge of program implementation and maintenance

· Employees must be rewarded or disciplined for their participation, or lack thereof, in the program

· Disciplinary action against non-compliant employees must be a serious enough penalty for their action or inaction

· Regular communication regarding the program potentially including an established employee safety committee, safety meetings and safety newsletters

· Regularly scheduled inspections

· Established procedures for the expeditious correction of safety hazards

· Appropriate safety training and educational programs

· Detailed documentation of all of the above

Many employers establish these programs but there are still many that struggle to provide the required documentation to prove that the program is properly maintained. If this lack of documentation is discovered on a Cal-OSHA inspection and is also determined to be the cause of an employee injury or death, the employer will be subjected not only workers' compensation fees but also OSHA fines.

Source: The Press-Enterprise, "ADVICE: Injury prevention program is a cure for employee safety hazards," Joseph T. Ortiz, May 19, 2012

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