What You Need To Know About The Powerful Cal/OSHA Enforcement
In the California state government, the OSHA division is called Cal/OSHA Enforcement. They are responsible for enforcing the regulations and for making sure that every employee in the state is protected, working in safe conditions, and feels safe to report violations. They set workplace standards and also provide education and training for workers. This ensures that all guidelines are met and understood. California is a leader in the United States when it comes to enforcing the regional and federal OSHA rules and protecting employees.
If you feel that you need to ensure that every employee is aware of Coronavirus rules and regulations in the workplace, it may be a good idea for your organization to use our Covid-19 compliance training for employees. There are simple, real-world videos and reading content that can help to ensure that all employees are aware of these policies and how they are enforced.
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What is the Cal/OSHA
Cal/OSHA has its own Enforcement Branch. They are part of the division of Occupational Safety and Health that inspects workplaces for compliance. They are responsible for exploring complaints and accidents that happen on the job and have been reported. Those who work in this division make sure that standards are met and offer support to employers to help them uphold practices that promote health and safety and prevent injury or death. The Enforcement Branch is also responsible for reporting infractions received by the police and any accident that has resulted in severe injury or death.
The division of the California Occupational Safety And Health department performs focused investigations in workplaces that are considered to be "high hazard." Some examples of where these investigations take place are, mining operations, places where petroleum is refined, and areas where business is conducted by the "shadow economy." This "underground" economy consists of illegal interactions such as drug dealing, gambling, fraud, and stolen products.
Cal/OSHA can also deliver citations and orders for certain activities after the investigation of a hazardous workplace. If there is an obvious endangerment, Cal/OSHA will deliver an OPU (orders prohibiting use), until the hazard is resolved and the area is considered safe for all workers. If employers do not remedy the situation, and an employee is seriously injured or dies, the company owner and/or supervisor can face jail time or a fine that can be well over $10,000.
What is the Difference Between Cal/OSHA and Federal OSHA?
When it comes to OSHA enforcement in California, it is helpful to know the difference between federal OSHA and California Occupational Safety and Health. Federal OSHA is required to approve all state plans, but Cal/OSHA has much more strict standards than OSHA at the federal level. This may partly be because states have an easier time jumping over any hurdles that may arise when issuing regulations. In this way, Cal/OSHA supersedes Federal OSHA.
Since the 1970s, OSHA, at the federal level, has preserved its authority over worker safety in general. This includes:
- Monitoring exposure to harmful substances called PELs (permissible exposure limits). Some of these chemicals include gasoline, wood dust, and fumes from welding.
- Process Safety Management (PSM) -- Federal OSHA's program is required to provide a quick overview and description of violations, then Cal/OSHA takes over from there.
- Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) -- This regulation covers only milling and mining, but minimally. Cal/OSHA has jurisdiction over all "finishing operations," and also monitors all tunnel construction in the state.
Even though Federal OSHA oversees these areas, Cal/OSHA enforces its own standards as well. In addition, California has adopted regulations in areas that have no counterpart at the federal level. They include enforcing rules in the following operations:
- Diacetyl -- A hazardous flavoring used in food, which can cause irreparable damage to the lungs.
- Injury and Protection Program (IIPP) -- A safety and health program that can be customized to each specific workplace. In the '90s, this program adopted the RMI (Repetitive Motion Injury) standard. This protects any worker who suffers an injury due to repetitive motion on the job.
- Cleaning high-rise windows -- California is one of only two states with this safety program, which requires yearly inspection of all equipment.
- Heat Illness Prevention Program -- Because California has extremely hot temperatures, every employer must have a written policy in place with guidelines for workers who spend time outside. These guidelines must be based on the area's high heat index, which can vary depending on what part of the state the business resides in. This program has resulted in many pieces of training and inspections to help raise awareness of heat-related injuries on the job.
- Aerosol Transmissible Diseases -- This regulation is enforced to reduce the spread of disease, which includes anything that can be passed on by coughing or sneezing (including Covid-19) in the workplace.
- Additional Regulations -- Cal/OSHA maintains that permits are necessary for employers to obtain if their workplace includes elevators, amusement rides, ski lifts, and similar apparatus.
When companies comply with these standards, the risk of great injury or fatalities to their workers is greatly reduced. An employer whose workplace has the potential to expose employees to any of these hazards would do well to inform all workers about the dangers in detail. Acompliance training program can help with this.
Cal/OSHA Covid Enforcement Activity
When Covid-19 arrived in the United States in 2019, every place of business needed to quickly consider and amend their regulations around virus transmission. Cal/OSHA is no exception -- in addition to their regular standards around disease control that are always in place, they went to work.
Cal/OSHA put new rules in place regarding Covid-19 and developed educational materials, guidance, and training. They also made sure that every workplace was aware that these new standards would be enforced. Any employers that did not comply face citations and hefty OSHA fines.
The biggest offenders in California have been nursing care facilities, prisons, medical centers, and some retail businesses. Some of the non-compliance issues taking place in the state are:
- Two California state prisons, San Quenton and Avenal, were investigated because a high number of staff were hospitalized for Covid. Cal/OSHA discovered that the employees had neither the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) nor proper training for working in an environment with Covid cases.
- Many medical centers and nursing homes were handed citations, mostly for inadequate respiratory protection protocols and for not reporting serious Covid cases in their facilities. This led to many employees being exposed and contracting the virus or just having to quarantine because of close contact
- Retail stores that were required to pay fines were proven to have not reported illness in the workplace or did not even have an adequate Injury Illness Prevention Program in place.
Cal/OSHA has been swift to investigate and enforce consequences regarding Covid-19 violations.
How Do I Contact Cal/OSHA?
There are two main reasons for an employee to contact Cal/OSHA.
- Every worker has a right to file a confidential grievance based on any incident related to health and safety in the workplace. They can ask for Cal/OSHA to perform an inspection.
- Any employee can file a "whistleblower" complaint if they believe that their employer has retaliated against them for exercising their rights regarding safety. There is a program called the "Whistleblower Protection Program" that will help safeguard those making these reports.
There are several ways to contact Cal/OSHA to solicit advice, ask a question, or report an incident. The fours ways to do this are:
- Telephone call -- Get in touch with your local office or the main headquarters at 800-321-6742 (OSHA)
- **Online form -- **This can be found on the Cal/OSHA website. Simply fill it out with as much detail as possible and send it directly from the site - https://www.dir.ca.gov/
- **Written -- **Compose a letter or email detailing your question or complaint
- Local Representative -- Visit your local California Occupational Safety and Health office and set up a meeting to discuss your complaint and further actions that may be necessary
At the federal level, OSHA has a number of standards that states are required to follow and that will be enforced. It is important for all employers and their workers to know and understand them. However, when a state like California has its own local branch of OSHA, it is equally and maybe more vital, to have a thorough understanding of requirements ensuring safety and a healthy work environment. There are many educational materials about Cal/OSHA on their site. These local standards are much more tailored to the conditions of each particular state.