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Study questions enforcement of California work safety initiative

In 1991, a new occupational safety program designed to drastically reduce the number of work injuries/accidents went into effect here in the Golden State. Called the California Injury and Illness Prevention Program (CIIPP), the groundbreaking program called for employers to do some of the following:

  • Convey workplace risks to employees
  • Investigate work injuries
  • Implement safety training
  • Reduce/eliminate workplace risks
  • Execute workplace surveys
  • Create a written policy on workplace safety

Interestingly, a new study by the Santa Monica-based RAND Corp. found that while CIIPP has proven successful in reducing work injuries, accidents and hazards, this success has been limited to those businesses that have been cited for violating particular work safety mandates.

Specifically, RAND researchers found that inspectors with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) -- the agency in charge of enforcing CIIPP -- are mainly checking to see if employers have the required written policy and often not delving any deeper. However, when they do delve deeper and cite an employer for a specific CIIPP violation, real change occurs.

"We found the safety effects to be real, but not very large," said John Mendeloff, a senior public policy researcher for RAND and study's primary author. "We think that the most important reason for the limited impact of this program is that inspectors often did not go beyond a review of the employer's written document."

Here, RAND researchers found that the violation of Cal/OSHA standards that was most frequently cited by its inspectors was CIIPP violations -- approximately 25 percent of all inspections resulted in CIIPP violations.

Breaking these numbers down, however, they found the following:

  • Of this 25 percent of inspections resulting in CHIPP violations, 20 percent were for not having a written program
  • Of this 25 percent of inspections resulting in CHIPP violations, 5 percent were for failures to comply with specific CIIPP provisions (i.e., failing to train workers, reduce risk, etc.); Furthermore, the researchers found that businesses that were issued these types of CIIPP violations saw their average work injury rates decline by over 20 percent in the following two years

RAND researchers ultimately concluded that this seemingly superficial compliance check by Cal/OSHA inspectors for CIIPP violations could mean that many companies have serious undetected safety problems.

According to Mendeloff, "inspectors should go beyond checking the paperwork" in order to facilitate real change.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Source:

Insurance Journal, "Study: California workplace safety program only superficially enforced" Feb. 1, 2012

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