Businesses continue to strive and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, modifying their operations to conform to the ever-changing government workplace safety orders and guidance. In doing so, it’s important for employers to keep their Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPP) up to date as conditions change. As previously reported, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) recently updated its guidance on employers’ obligation to establish and implement an IIPP with respect to COVID-19. Employers should also make sure they’re following Cal/OSHA’s updated regulations that provide employees the right to access their employer’s IIPP.
As a quick reminder, California law requires employers to implement an IIPP to protect employees from hazardous workplace conditions. It must address, in writing, several issues, including:
- Procedures for creating safe and healthful work practices;
- Procedures for identifying, evaluating and investigating workplace hazards, injuries and illnesses;
- Systems for communicating hazards to employees; and
- Employee training whenever the employer learns of a new or unrecognized hazard.
Employers must train employees on their IIPP and provide employees with access to their written IIPP upon the employee’s request.
Though most employers already provide access to their IIPPs, updated regulations from Cal/OSHA clarify employees’ right of access to the program and provide specific requirements for compliance. Upon an employee’s request, employers must provide access in a reasonable time, place and manner, but not later than five business days after the request.
The employer must provide a written copy of the IIPP program, unless the employee agrees to receive an electronic copy. Employers may provide access through a company server or website when the employee, as part of their regular work duties, predictably and routinely uses such means to communicate with management or coworkers. Employees may give written authorization to a designated representative who may exercise this right of access.
The IIPP provided to the employee doesn’t need to include any of the records of the steps taken to implement and maintain the program. If an employer has distinctly different and separate operations with separate IIPPs, then the employer can limit IIPP access to applicable employees.
Employers must inform their employees of their right to access the IIPP and the procedures for doing so. Employers should include this information in their IIPP training content.
Employee requests for access to the IIPP are likely to increase due to the heightened concerns for workplace safety at this time. Employers should adopt policies for providing access to their employees consistent with the updated regulations and should consult legal counsel if their IIPP needs to be updated to ensure that it meets the requirements of California law.