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  • May 2024

    Preventing work-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses is critical for every employer. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), since the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSH Act”) was signed into law, workplace reported deaths and injuries have significantly dropped. OSHA attributes this drop to the implementation by many businesses of an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (“IIPP”), which has helped prevent thousands of injuries worldwide and helps promote safety workplace culture.

    While the federal OSH Act does not require businesses to implement an IIPP, California does.  Therefore, it is important for employers to understand what an IIPP is, how to prepare a compliant IIPP, and the potential penalties for non-compliance. 

    What is an IIPP?

    Effective July 1, 1991, Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations section 3203 requires every employer to establish, implement, and maintain an effective IIPP. The IIPP is intended to improve health and safety in the workplace. An effective IIPP will: 1) fully involve all employees, supervisors and management; 2) identify the specific workplace hazards employees are exposed to; 3) correct identified hazards in an appropriate and timely manner; and 4) provide effective training. It is vital that employers regularly review and update their IIPP to ensure the program remains effective. A program that is not effective can result in penalties.

    Why Implement an IIPP?

    There are several reasons for employers to implement an IIPP.  The first, and most obvious reason is that IIPPs are required under California law. Second, safety is important! Having an IIPP in place lets employers identify potential risks and helps keep employees safe. Third, reducing workplace injuries and illnesses is a financial benefit for employers, as lower injury and illness rates increases productivity and employee retention.

    What Are the Requirements of an IIPP?

    Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations section 3203 requires the IIPP to be in writing and to have the following elements:

    1. Identify a person(s) with authority and responsibility for implementing the program [Section 3203(a)(1)];

    The person assigned to oversee the IIPP should be someone who has management’s full support. In many cases, this can be the owner of the company. The person must be identified by name or job title in the employer’s IIPP. All employees should know who this person is.

    1. Implement a system for ensuring employees comply with safe and healthy work practices [Section 3203(a)(2)];

    Substantial compliance is required for this provision. Compliance can include recognizing employees who follow safe and healthful work practices, implementing training and retraining programs, or executing disciplinary actions for those who fail to comply with safe and healthy work practices.

    1. Implement a system for communicating with employees in a form readily understandable by all affected employees [Section 3203(a)(3)];

    Employers should encourage all employees to inform them of any hazards employees encounter while at work. It is important for employers to communicate to employees that employees will not face retaliation for any hazards they may identify.

    1. Include procedures for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards [Section 3203(a)(4)];

    Employers should schedule periodic inspections of the workplace or worksites. Inspections help identify unsafe working conditions or work practices. Inspections must identify and evaluate hazards:

    A. When the IIPP is first established;

    B. When new substances, processes, procedures, or equipment is introduced to the workplace that represents a new occupational safety and health hazard; and

    C. Whenever the employer is made aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard.


      5. Include procedures to investigate occupational injury or occupational illness [Section 3203(a)(5)];

    Employers must conduct investigations when there is a workplace injury to determine the cause and what measures can be put into place to prevent future injuries. Some helpful questions that employers can use in the investigation process are: 1) what happened?; 2) how did it happen; 3) why did it happen?; and (4) what will help prevent this from happening in the future?  

    1. Include methods and/or procedures for correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions, work practices, and work procedures in a timely manner [Section 3203(a)(6)];

    Corrections must occur when a hazard is observed or discovered, and when an imminent hazard exists which cannot be immediately abated without endangering employees and/or property.

    1. Provide employee training and instruction [Section 3203(a)(7)];

    Employees must receive training when the IIPP is first established, and all supervisors must familiarize themselves with hazards to which employees under their immediate direction and control may be exposed.

    All new employees and employees given new job assignments must receive the appropriate training and instruction. Such training must also be provided in instances where new substances, processes, procedures, or equipment are introduced that represent a new hazard and when the employer is made aware of a new and previously unrecognized hazard.

    1. Allow employees access to the Program [Section 3203(a)(8)];

    Allowing access to the program means that the employees will receive the right and opportunity to examine and receive a copy of the IIPP. Employers must provide access by either: 1) providing access to a printed or electronic copy of the IIPP in a reasonable, time, place, and manner (no later than 5 business days after the request was made); or 2) providing unobstructed access through a company server or website.

    1. Maintain adequate recordkeeping [Section 3203(b)(1)] and documentation Section 3203(b)(2)].

    Records of the inspections required by subsection (a)(4) and documentation of any trainings required by subsection (a)(7) must both be maintained for at least one year (with exceptions for employers with fewer than 10 employees).

    Who Must Comply?

    Most employers must have an effective written plan in place under California law. Certain exceptions apply to employers with fewer than 10 employees. Employers with less than 10 employees may comply with Section 3203(a)(3) by orally communicating with and instructing employees in general safe work practices regarding hazards unique to the employees’ job assignments. Employers with less than 10 employees may comply with § 3203(b)(1) by maintaining the inspection records only until the hazard is corrected. Further, employers with less than 10 employees may comply with Section 3203(b)(2) by maintaining a log of instructions provided to the employee regarding hazards unique to the employee’s job assignment when first hired or assigned new duties.

    What are the Consequences for Non-Compliance?

    Employers who fail to implement or maintain an IIPP can expose their employees to workplace injuries and illnesses. Additionally, a failure to do have an IIPP can result in penalties and fines ranging from $400 to $25,000.

    For general violations, such as not having an IIPP program, the employer will typically be cited for a single violation of section 3203(a). However, if a violation is classified as serious, repeat, or willful, separate citations will be issued for every element of section 3203. Violations are classified as either general or serious pursuant to the guidelines set forth in the Cal/OSHA Policy & Procedural Manual. The Manual defines general violations as a violation that has “a relationship to occupational safety and health, but is specifically determined not to be of a serious nature.” A violation is considered “serious” if there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from the violation.

    Are IIPP Trainings Available?

    Employers should consider utilizing free training resources available through CalOSHA. The Worker Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program offers free half-day IIPP trainings for small businesses and staffing agencies who place workers in other employers’ workplaces. The trainings cover effective ways to develop and implement an IIPP that meets Cal/OSHA’s standard. For a list of dates for training programs, please visit:

    Are Model Programs Available?

    Model programs are available through CalOSHA for various types of employers. While there is no requirement that employers use the following programs, they are a great start to creating your own IIPP.  

    For more information contact:

    Matthew Wallin

    (424) 317-4423

    Matthew Wallin is a partner in the Los Angeles office where he practices labor and employment law.  He has extensive experience defending private business and public entities in litigation and advising clients on labor compliance issues.  

    Thanks to contributor Gabriela Aguilar JD Candidate at Loyola Law School, 2025 


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