California is famous for its multiple stringent requirements it imposes upon employers in efforts to protect employees. It was California which was a leader in workplace safety programs and banning of dangerous conditions in work places, including banning cigarette smoking in restaurants and bars. It is often forgotten that the bans were first imposed a decade ago in an effort to protect the employees-waiters and waitresses-from the second hand smoke in such locales.
It should thus be no surprise that California has existing law requiring employers in this state to maintain records of all employee injuries and, further, create employee injury prevention programs if the employer falls into some of the categories described below.
This is mandatory and the employer may not plead ignorance as to its requirements.
INJURY AND ILLNESS PREVENTION PROGRAM
According to the California Labor Code Section 6401.7, every employer must establish, implement and maintain an effective illness and injury prevention program. Copies of the Model Injury and Illness Prevention Program shall be prepared and be posted in the workplace. An employer is required to have an illness and injury prevention program for any amount of employees, but for employers who have less then 20 employees and who are in industries that are on the non-high-hazard list (consult an attorney or the website of the California Department of Labor for the list) ) the written requirements are less stringent.
a. Every employer regardless of the number or employees shall:
- Make and maintain a written injury and illness program (specifications for the program can be found in CA Labor Code Section 6401.7(a))
- Correct unsafe and unhealthy conditions in a timely manner
- Train all employees about the program.
b. An employer who has less then 20 employees must provide written documentation and keep records of the following:
1. Documenting the persons responsible for implementing the program
2. Keeping a record of periodic inspections
3. Keeping a record of employee training.
c. For employers with 20 or more employees, all the requirements above also stand. The following are requirements for any injury and illness program regardless of the number of employees, but written documentation and record keeping for the following is only required if there are 20 or more employees: In addition to the requirements of the paragraph above, employers with 20 or more employees must provide written documentation and keep records of:
1. The employer’s methods and procedures for correcting unsafe and unhealthy conditions in a timely manner
2. The employer’s system for communicating with employees on occupational health and safety matters, including provisions designed to encourage employees to inform the employer of hazards without fear of reprisal
3. The employer’s system for ensuring that employees comply with safe and healthy work practices
4. The employer’s corrections of unsafe conditions
As with so much involving employment law in California, the purpose of the law is commendable and the need in some circumstances quite apparent. The above obligations are, after all, what any intelligent business person would wish to institute for the better operation of his or her company.
The problem arises when the full information is not kept in a safe and secure location or another employee fails to comply with the instructions that the employer imposes to keep accurate and complete records and keep them in a known location for at least ten years.
The plan to correct unsafe conditions is also vital and is a constant subject of cross examination when injuries In the work place occur. The wise employer will not only promptly correct any unsafe condition, but will document all efforts to do so in a complete and timely manner.
It is both commonsense-and the law.