Those who attended the recent meeting of the National Safety Society Golden Gate Chapter experienced an “eye opener,” as well as, an alert to employers about how **CAL/OSHA’s enforcement division will interact with them.
Here are the take a-ways from this meeting:
• Penalties are going up for employer infractions and the fees/penalties will increase each year according a cost of living index; for example, failure to post OSHA information was previously a fine up to $7,000 and now it will go up to $12,471.
• Willful violations will be “10” times the cost of a non-willful violation.
• It is common for the CAL/OSHA district offices to interpret regulations differently than CAL/OSHA headquarters. This results in bickering amongst these offices and costing for employers to resolve an alleged violation due to additional time and for legal advice to challenge the disagreements between the “Bickersons.”
• It has also become very difficult to negotiate with district offices. Many district offices believe when an injury occurs there must be a violation. This causes their representatives to make multiple visits to employers in search of some violation, so they can make a charge, even though there is no evidence a violation was related to the injury.
• CAL/OSHA resists employers’ requests to obtain information held by CAL/OSHA that may be germane to the employer case. This forces employers to take civil legal action which again is time consuming and expensive for them to prevail.
• Employer defense counsels find CAL/OSHA staff attorneys believe they are “advocates” for those who are injured and attempt to “grand-stand” during court proceedings to make a name for themselves.
• Regardless of an employer’s high level of OSHA compliance, those employers with a high number of injuries are targeted for inspections. For years CAL/OSHA has been criticized by Federal OSHA executives for being “too lenient” on employers; so, it is believed this is the reason for this new aggressive approach to inspections.
• Employers are receiving citations and penalties when hiring contractors to perform work on their premises. Even though the contractor’s employees do not belong to the business who hired the contractor, CAL/OSHA believes the business that hired the contractor, is also responsibility for contractor’s workplace safety. In one case at a winery in Napa, California, CAL/OSHA also attempted to fine the Napa business who hired the contractor for violating the California Contractor laws for not having a California Contractor’s License.
Conclusion: Obviously, take steps to avoid involvement with the CAL/OSHA enforcement division. If you don’t be prepared for the worst.
What to do: Prepare now; here are some tasks that can help you:
• Engage a safety professional to survey our operations to make sure you are OSHA compliant (need an introduction, we can help)
• Develop a relationship with a law firm that has knowledge and experience defending employers in OSHA matters
• Make sure our Injury Illness Prevention Plan is in order
• Confirm your safety training, guidelines and documentation are all up to date
For more information about preparing and participating in a visit from OSHA, download a copy of our current edition of OSHA Visits: An Employer’s Survival Guide.
Contact me for additional information about this topic, or other RisksNThreats that may affect your business and your employees in the following ways: email: firstname.lastname@example.org; office phone: 800-346-6216 ext. 8758; mobile phone 925-285-6790.
**As you may recall in California, CAL/OSHA is the enforcing agency of Federal OSHA in addition to California specific workplace OSHA guidelines, rules and regulations. In some cases, CAL/OSHA is stricter than the Federal agency.