A Guide to Creating an Effective Safety and Health Program

Mar 21, 2022

White and yellow helmet for safety.

Do you and your managers know what to do if someone gets injured or sick on the job? If you don’t, this article is for you! Continue reading to learn more about creating an effective safety and health program to prevent workplace injury and illness.

We understand that this topic can be overwhelming at first glance, but don’t worry, we’ll walk you through every step!

What is a Safety and Health Program?

Before we dig into the nitty and gritty of creating a safety and health program, let’s briefly talk about what it is.

A safety and health program is also known as an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

An IIPP contains a general plan to keep the workforce free from work-related injuries and illnesses. Instead of reacting to accidents after they happen, this tool takes a more proactive approach to prevent injury and illness ahead of time.

Finding and correcting hazards before they become a problem is a much more effective way to create a safer workplace.

Workers on the safety and health program committee.

Who’s Required to Have One?

Injury and Illness Prevention Programs aren’t federally mandated by OSHA, but they are required or strongly encouraged in many U.S. states.

The list of state OSHA programs that now require employers to have an IIPP is growing. These states include California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

We generally recommend that all employers have a written IIPP as a workplace best practice.

If you have an IIPP, it should be readily available to the OSHA inspectors, when/if they request it.

Note: Regulations that mandate safety programs are both complex and potentially confusing, and laws and legal interpretations change frequently. Contact legal resources to ensure your safety program remains compliant and up-to-date.

Factory worker completing a safety inspection.

What are the Benefits?

The benefits of a health and safety program are plentiful. When OSHA studied states that either required or incentivized IIPPs, they found that – on average – injury and illness incidents decreased by more than 60%.

Having a safety and health program can also help your business avoid the direct and indirect costs of workplace accidents. OSHA estimates that workplaces with an IIPP can save anywhere from $9 billion to $23 billion per year in workers’ compensation costs.

Beyond cost savings, having an effective IIPP can improve quality of service, workplace morale, employee retention, and reputation.

A health and safety program isn’t something that you should do without. Now, to the fun part: building your IIPP!

Writing safety and health notes on paper.

What’s Included in a Safety and Health Program?

According to OSHA, the key elements common to most IIPPs are management leadership, employee participation, hazard identification, assessment, and prevention, safety training, and program improvement.

Depending on your industry and the kinds of work conducted at the workplace, your IIPP may be more or less complex compared to businesses in other industries.

This guide will help you build out a compliant safety and health program. Be sure to consider specific company needs and include them in your IIPP.

The following is a list of sections that should be included in your IIPP:

Safety Policy Statement

Start your IIPP by creating a written policy outlining your organization’s commitment to the health and safety of all workers. Establish a set of goals that show progress towards improving workplace health and safety, then develop a plan to accomplish those goals.

You should communicate the statement, plan, and goals to all workers and relevant stakeholders.

Beyond the written pieces, your management team at all levels should be demonstrating its commitment to the program and setting a good example for everyone else.

Leadership should demonstrate that health and safety are core values, they fully support this program, and will provide needed resources to reduce workplace hazards.

Hard hat on office working desk.

General Safety Guidelines

This section should include all relevant safety guidelines for your specific workplace. While many businesses have different guidelines, here are some common ones to include:

  • Slip and fall prevention
  • Safe lifting procedures
  • Fire safety
  • Basic first aid

Choose the ones that will pertain to your employees and the work being done by them.

All employees, including contractors and temporary workers, should understand the IIPP and what their role is in carrying out these guidelines.

They should be involved in all aspects of the safety and health program such as goal-setting, identifying and reporting workplace hazards, investigations, and tracking goal progress.

Be sure to encourage all employees to communicate with and report to management if they have any safety or health concerns. Employees should have appropriate representation on the safety committee.

Hazard Identification, Assessment, and Prevention

Employers should conduct an initial assessment of any existing workplace hazards and current safety measures.

Then, put together a set of procedures that will help you continually identify, evaluate, and track workplace hazards. Include this set of procedures in your IIPP.

Let employees know that periodic inspections will occur to identify and assess workplace hazards. In the IIPP, you should also list out the frequency and circumstances in which these inspections will happen.

Managers that will be conducting inspections should be adequately trained on how to properly identify and evaluate worksite hazards.

Employees and managers should work together to identify ways to continue to eliminate, prevent, and control workplace hazards. A plan should be created to help track the progress made, then include this plan in your IIPP.

Yellow caution tape attached to traffic cone

Accident & Exposure Investigations

Make it clear to all employees that an investigation into workplace accidents, hazardous substance exposure, and near-miss incidents will be done by a manager.

The affected employee(s) and owners should be notified of any accident, exposure, or near-misses.

Be sure to list out the exact investigation procedures in this section of the IIPP so employees and managers know what to expect if this were to occur.

Hazard Reporting & Correction

Unsafe or unhealthy work conditions, practices, or procedures should immediately be brought to the attention of the affected employees. Be sure that all employees and managers know how and to whom to report workplace hazards.

Communicate in this section that these hazards will be corrected as quickly and efficiently as possible without endangering employees. The order in which hazards should be addressed should be based on the severity and when it was observed or discovered.

If employees are required to help correct the hazard, employers are responsible for providing the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).

All corrective actions that are taken and the dates they are completed should be documented.

Factory workers doing safety program training.

Safety Training & Education

All employees, managers, and lead personnel should be trained and instructed on general and job-specific safety and health practices.

Include in your IIPP when and how training will occur.

All workers should be trained to understand how the safety program works and their role within it. Training should also help them recognize workplace hazards and understand any prevention measures that are in place.

Knowing this, now make a list of what will be included in your safety and health training. Be sure to also add this information to your IIPP.

Recordkeeping and Continual Improvements

Keeping a detailed record of inspections, incidents, and investigations is extremely important for both compliance and continually improving your safety and health program.

In this section, list out the steps you’ve been taking to implement and maintain your IIPP. Recordkeeping that you should be doing is as follows:

  • Keep detailed records of hazard assessment inspections, the unsafe conditions and work practices that have been identified, and the corrective action taken.
  • Documentation of safety and health training for each worker.

Your safety and health program should be reviewed, at minimum, annually. During this, identify any program weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. Take this time to make the needed changes to improve the program for the future.


Phew! We know that was a lot and, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by this, that’s completely normal. But we promise it’s not as complex as it may appear.

HR Annie is here to support the creation of your health and safety program! We regularly support our clients across a variety of industries start-up their safety programs and committees. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help!

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