Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee Meeting Highlights – February 2013

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The Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee held its first of three meetings for 2013 on February 7, 2013 in Oakland. The Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee is a group of occupational safety and health leaders representing various industry groups, labor, management groups, and professional members that meet three times a year to provide input to Cal/OSHA’s management. The Advisory Committee meeting is one of the best places to hear first-hand reports from Cal/OSHA senior leadership on what is currently happening with Cal/OSHA and what their focus will be in the future.

As a member of the Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee for the past three years, and as an attendee at the Feb 7th meeting, I am able to share the insights that from the February meeting, as well as the Cal/OSHA’s reports that come directly from the Cal/OSHA Chief, enforcement unit, consultation unit, research and standards unit, Standards Board, and the Appeals Board. Below are highlights from the meeting and Cal/OSHA reports from the February 2013 Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee meeting.

Christine Baker – Director of the Department of Industrial Relations

Baker opened the Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee meeting by stating that the past year has been a period of renewal for the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), and the focus has been on building the infrastructure and policies at DIR. Baker also provided some statistics from the work that was accomplished in 2012 by the California’s Labor Enforcement Task Force (LETF), the multi-agency enforcement task force that combats the underground economy.

  • 73% of businesses that received a visit from the LETF had at least one violation from one of the LETF agencies
  • 40% of businesses had violations with three or more of the LETF agencies

There was significant work done with the LETF during 2012 and the LETF will continue to play a vital role within the DIR, as evidenced by the recent stop orders it issued for dangerous equipment at Los Angeles area garment businesses.

 

Ellen Widess – Cal/OSHA Chief

Cal/OSHA Special Emphasis Program – Heat Illness Prevention

Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess provided a look back at 2012 and highlighted the two special-emphasis programs from Cal/OSHA. Widess noted that Cal/OSHA performed the highest number of heat illness inspections in its history and found that there was a large degree of compliance, but there is a small band of non-compliant employers. Specifically, Cal/OSHA noted that during their inspections they found that employers were cited for lack of effective supervisory training.  It is believed that one of the alleged heat illness fatalities in 2012 was the result of a lack of supervisor training it the inability of the supervisor to detect signs of heat illness in their employees.

Cal/OSHA Special Emphasis Program – Confined Space

The Cal/OSHA Chief discussed the results of the 2012 Cal/OSHA Confined Space Special Emphasis Program and said that she is “greatly disappointed to continue to see deaths and injuries in confined spaces”. Widess noted that none of the fatalities in 2012 involved hazardous atmospheres and that the deaths were from falls, being crushed or trapped in the confined space. The Chief indicated that Cal/OSHA will continue the Confined Space Special Emphasis Program in 2013 and that the special emphasis program will be included in enforcement and consultation visits to employers.

Cal/OSHA 2013 Plans

Chief Widess discussed the plans of Cal/OSHA for 2013 including that the construction industry in California has seen progress, but it continues to have higher fatality and serious injury statistics than the national average. The construction industry will be the focus of Cal/OSHA enforcement and consultation during 2013. Widess stated that falls in construction continue to account for the greatest number of California workplace fatalities and that Cal/OSHA supports the federal OSHA campaign on fall protection that was launched during 2012.

Widess stated that Cal/OSHA’s enforcement will focus on multi-employer worksites. In particular, the focus will continue to be on the growing warehousing industry in Southern California’s Inland Empire including San Bernardino and Riverside. According to Widess, the warehousing industry has been pervasively contracting-out their labor and employment functions to staffing agencies, in an attempt to transfer their safety responsibilities. However, Cal/OSHA is utilizing its multi-employer regulations to combat this practice and Cal/OSHA has issued its first ever multi-employer citation with the warehouse and staffing agencies.

Cal/OSHA will continue its work with California district attorney’s offices led by Lead Counsel Amy Martin. Martin meets with the district attorneys from around the State of California to educate them on the potential criminal aspects of Cal/OSHA cases. Widess expressed that she is pleased with the progress that Cal/OSHA has made with the District Attorneys, as it allows for a maximum deterrent effect when working with district attorney’s on egregious and fatality cases. Widess noted that due to this collaboration, there have been successful prosecutions in these cases including some involving principles of companies.

The agency’s research and standards unit has made important progress on safe patient handling, with respect to education and outreach. The enforcement unit has cited out of compliance hospitals under the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).  Widess affirmed that Cal/OSHA is close to recommending a standard through its Advisory Committee meeting process, which involves stakeholders.

Widess ended her update by mentioning that Cal/OSHA is celebrating its 40th year protecting California workers, and is in the early stages of setting up an event for the fall to celebrate its accomplishments.

For additional information on previous Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee meetings, please view the Cal/OSHA Resource page on our website that contains the official meeting minutes and documentation for the Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee meetings of the past few years.

The OSHA Training Center at Chabot-Las Positas Community College District is authorized by OSHA to deliver their safety training courses for construction, general industry, maritime, and Cal/OSHA throughout California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam, and American Samoa. Contact us at 866-936-6742 for additional information or visit our website at www.osha4you.com.

 

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