Injury & Illness Prevention Programs (“I2P2”) – OSHA Should Not Be The Only Reason You Have One

I2P2 is a hot topic in workplace safety training news and is high on the agenda for discussion points at OSHA stakeholder feedback meetings. There is a divide among employers regarding whether federal OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) should pass standards for an I2P2 across the United States.  Word on the cyber street is that OSHA will attempt to get the new I2P2 standard passed before the upcoming election results in November.

Despite the outcome or even which side of the fence you may be on regarding this legislation, injury and illness prevention planning should be a top priority at your business.

I2P2 is truly the foundation of every safety and compliance program. It reinforces the need for a plan that is communicated to all employees for the benefit of an increased safety awareness and to reduce workplace injury.  It also sets the stage for your employees’ view of workplace safety: Is it important to you? If not, why should it be important to them?

An I2P2 is an investment in you, your company, your employees and your customers. Fundamentally, an injury and illness prevention program keeps employees from getting hurt and it reduces the cash output that employers spend on insurance because of reduced claims. Everyone wins, right? Unfortunately, an I2P2 often becomes a cumbersome task that goes the way of a dusty shelf.

I2P2: Not Just Paperwork for an OSHA Audit

An injury and illness prevention program can be a powerful planning tool that can get people thinking about safety in the workplace.  Schedule a meeting to talk about the current culture at your workplace. Set a brief agenda, nothing fancy, and ask a few realistic questions about the current culture.

Make Your Meeting a Discovery, Approach It Like a Journalist

The idea of starting a new initiative or suggesting a change in the current culture can be exhausting in itself.  You’ve probably considered the additional meetings and creation of topic agendas as well as trying to keep the momentum going throughout the process.  It could make you want to stop now and just go back to business as usual.

As a trainer and project manager, I’ve been there myself. Planning for the planning can feel more exhausting than engaging in the actual process. My advice?  Fear not and don’t think too much. You’ll scare yourself away.

A quick aside: In a previous career life I did improv comedy and I wrote newspaper articles. Occasionally I would interview people. I now approach my meetings like I approached interviews and comedy.  Come prepared with eight open-ended questions designed to get the person talking and always listen. Then the equation was simple: When he/she started talking – I’d listen. Usually I’d walk away with a story I didn’t know I had.

Listening may sound simple, a “yeah-duh” moment as opposed to an “ah-ha” moment, if you prefer. Research shows people don’t listen. [One link, but there are plenty out there on communicating.] We often spend more time formulating the questions we’re about to ask or stewing over the comment made 10 minutes earlier. We forget to engage right now.

You can earn more honest answers when you intently listen to people. Formulate questions organically, ones that play off what the person is telling you during the conversation.  Most people want to share and participate, but those same people will shut down if they feel like they are not being heard. Create a sense of optimism and harness each staff member’s unique knowledge of the job.

Planning Meeting Sample Questions

  1. How safe is our workplace now? (Be honest!)
  2. Do we put a value on training?
  3. Do we communicate new guidelines and make expectations known to all of our employees?
  4. Is there a way we could reach more employees? (such as, online training, toolbox talks, use of the company website, more posters in the breakroom, email notices…)
  5. Do we have a written I2P2 that is available to all employees?
  6. What kind of on-the-job accidents have happened within the past year?
  7. Were the accidents preventable?  If so, how could we have stopped them? (Make that answer part of your new I2P2 safety initiative.)
  8. Do we have some informal ways of training staff that only specific departments use? If so, can we take those department-specific training techniques to an online format or incorporate them into a training that benefits the entire company?
  9. Are employees comfortable asking questions in the workplace so they can get safety clarification when needed?
  10. Do we have a safety committee or a safety leadership program? If so, how can we gain better staff participation or buy-in? If not, do we want to start one?

General Agenda Topics for I2P2 Planning Meetings

I’ve listed some possible topics to get you started on a meeting agenda.

  • medical emergencies
  • fires, exit routes and fire extinguishers
  • natural disasters (wildfire, tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, blizzard/snowstorm, extreme heatwave)
  • workplace violence
  • hostile or armed persons in the workplace and safe strategies (you might also contact your local police department to do a presentation on the proper procedures to follow)
  • communication plan or meeting place during emergencies
  • emergency exit plans (training and documentation)
  • loss of electricity/gas/water
  • hazardous chemical spill and containment
  • general annual safety training
  • when to call 9-11 (you’d be surprised how many employees don’t know when or if it’s okay to do this at work)
  • informal safety reminders (quarterly, monthly, it’s up to you)
  • employee orientation on safety, including where your I2P2 is stored
  • signage (people don’t always know where the exits or the fire alarm pulls are, especially in an emergency when things are chaotic)
  • labels (just because everyone who’s been at your company knows the unmarked white bottle under the sink cabinet contains vinegar, doesn’t mean the new hires know)
  • And the list goes on…

An Opportunity, Not a Burden

The goal of your meetings should be to get feedback and a realistic assessment of what your current injury and illness prevention program looks like right now. Start open discussions on what should be improved.  Make the most of these I2P2 planning sessions; use them as an opportunity to assess strengths and weaknesses. Much like a skills-gap analysis is used to identify where employees can best benefit from additional on-the-job training, an I2P2 planning team can make a huge difference in identifying the best place(s) to improve on safety initiatives. It also helps to have this information when creating budgets or seeking funding for a new program.

Be Honest in Your Self-Assessment

Don’t lie or pad your responses when it comes to weak points.  It’s not a time to be defensive or to seek out people or departments to blame for poor safety initiatives.  Approach your meetings with an open mind and with the idea that now is the time to improve or take your program to the next level.  Know that you are already ahead of the curve because you are being proactive about change.  The last place you want to be is in a meeting forced upon you because of an OSHA visit or a lawsuit. A reactive position is usually tense and less productive because of the time constraints due to an OSHA investigation peppered with fines and citations.

OSHA Stats

There are many compelling reasons to begin your foray into developing an I2P2 or revamping the existing one you have.  Loss of life is the most obvious reason. Consider the statistics below:

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 3.3 million serious work-related injuries and about 4,300 fatalities occurred in 2009. The human cost of preventable workplace injuries and deaths is incalculable. However, according to the 2010 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the direct cost of the most disabling workplace injuries and illnesses in 2008 amounted to $53.42 billion in U.S. workers compensation costs, more than one billion dollars per week. This money would be better spent on Injury and illness prevention programs are good for workers, good for business and good for America.” – Dr. David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor job creation and innovation

Increased morale, lower employee turnover, reduced workers compensation rates and setting a positive example for your field are also other reasons to place high importance on maintaining an I2P2.

For more statistics and research, read OSHA’s Injury & Illness Prevention Program Whitepaper.

Media Is Your Friend

When I have asked clients, “How do you deliver your employee training and company information now?” I am often told, “We probably have a binder somewhere in HR…” If this is you, don’t feel bad.  But let me suggest an alternate approach to the dusty binder on a shelf model.  Depending on the type of business and the technological skills of the employees, you might consider using cloud computing options such as, GoogleApps (many basic applications are free), Prezi, ThinkFree or other applications.  I am not advocating one over another, just suggesting that you consider paperless options which are easier to update and easily accessible.

Whatever method you choose, your I2P2 must be accessible by all employees.

Final Thoughts

In addition to training, you need to work on gaining staff buy-in through communication and promotion campaigns to “talk up” your new safety incentives.  It is proven that buy-in comes from the top down, so get your CEO talking. Employees will follow an I2P2 initiative as long as upper level management and direct supervisors show that they care. Annual retraining also has an impact on the lasting effectiveness of any safety program. Don’t give up the momentum after year one.

Of course, Verticlimb offers online training for OSHA safety and compliance topics (shameless plug), which is an important part of any I2P2.  Drop us an email or give us a call if you’d like to get a demo of our training and LMS.

No matter the training you choose, take steps toward enacting an I2P2 today. And as always, journey safely.

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