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Cal\OSHA Changes Interpretation of Laws

For 2017, Cal\OSHA is aligning itself more completely with OSHA in the way it views repeat offenders.  You can read the whole report written by Littler Global at this site https://www.littler.com/publication-press/publication/calosha-amendment-significantly-expands-its-definition-%E2%80%9Crepeat%E2%80%9D

In Summary, Cal\OSHA can now go back 5 years and if you have a “substantially similar” citation at any of your locations in California, it will be considered a “repeat” violation and you could be subject to fines of over $70,000.  The five year look-back begins on the date that the citation is finalized, so if you appeal the citation, it could delay the finalizing date and mean the actual time from the original violation could be almost 6 years old and still be within the 5-year window for repeats.  This may affect strategies going forward.

Also, please take note of the fact that this is a repeat at any facility within your organization that is in the State.  So, if you have a citation for your eyewash station in one location, if you have a shower citations (substantially similar) problem in another location, they could be listed as repeat violations and the fines would grow about 4 fold.

Comparing first-quarter figures from the past six years, the number of Cal/OSHA investigations has risen steadily, from 2,608 in 2011 to 3,375 in 2016, nearly a 30% increase. Citations for alleged serious violations have increased even more significantly – by 330% in the same period. Alleged serious violations represented 21% of total cited alleged violations for the first quarter of 2016 versus only 10% in 2011.

So, be prepared.  Walk your property with an open eye.  Invite HR Mobile Services to come out and help you identify problems.  Check your paperwork!

The clear message here is that you should take these citations seriously and implement changes at all locations to address an issue so that it does not cost you again.

GOV. BROWN SIGNS INDOOR HEAT ILLNESS MANDATE

Yes, you read that correctly.  The State of California feels that people working in-doors deserve the same protections from Heat Illness training as outdoor workers.  Now, on some levels this makes sense.  For instance, a worker in a factory could be exposed to severe heat conditions. Other similar places could be electrical generation areas, greenhouses, building construction, attic insulation installers, electricians, plumbers, etc.  So, this could have some practical applications in the workplace.

That being said, it is a very poorly written bill, SB 1167 (Mendoza; D-Artesia) , which gives almost no direction as to the definition of an “indoor occupation” that would be covered under this act.  In fact, the entire project is left almost completely to Cal\OSHA to write and implement this program.  They have to begin the rule making process in 2017 to submit a proposed rule to the Cal/OSHA Standards Board by January 1, 2019.

This is a stakeholder driven process, so it is very important that your industry is part of the conversation.  If you have an advocacy group, get them involved early to state your position before the rules are written.  It is almost impossible to fight or have them re-written later.

 

UFW IS SANCTIONED WATCHDOG FOR CAL\OSHA

An settlement was reached between the families of 2 farmworkers who have had heat-related deaths over the past couple of years.  The UFW was also engaged in suing the State of California for not aggressively pursuing violators of the heat-illness regulations.

Since those deaths, Cal\OSHA has raised the standards again as we saw with this year’s roll-out of the program in May.  However, that was not enough.  So, in reaching a resolution to the lawsuits, Cal\OSHA has agreed to sanction the UFW as an official Watchdog.  Also, they have agreed to aggressively increase the inspection and overview of agriculture workers in the State over the next few months.

What this means to every farm and ranch owner is that  you better go back and review your training and if you are AT ANY POINT not in compliance, you should fix it now or face a real possibility of stiff fines and further inspections.  It may also be time to watch your neighbors as well.  When they are not in compliance, that draws attention to all locations around them.  With UFW on board, they are just looking for a good reason to get onto your property and organize your workers.  With the new rules regarding organizing meetings set down by the NLRB and our generous State officials, it could be a very long and difficult Summer.

UPDATE

The California Farm Labor Contractor’s Association sent out the following statement to it’s members:

Beware of Strangers – Control Access to Fields!

Dear CFLCA Members and Others:

Most of you are aware that Cal OSHA recently settled an old lawsuit filed by UFW charging inadequate enforcement of the Heat Illness Prevention standard. That settlement included a memorandum of understanding in which Cal OSHA is required to investigate any reports by UFW staff of non-compliance found among agricultural employers. UFW is now sending representatives to fields under the guise of educational outreach to workers on heat illness prevention. They have been active in the Fresno region. Employers are advised that UFW representatives have NO RIGHT to enter your fields, unless they have filed their Notice of Intent and if access has been granted by the ALRB. The grower would have to receive a copy of the notice. Without such notice, UFW representatives should be asked to immediately leave your premises. Click here for a copy of the questionnaire UFW reps are asking employees to complete. It seeks information regarding employer compliance with the standard. It might be used as evidence against the employer for a violation of the rules. Please train all workers to tell any visitors they must wait to talk to the supervisor. And train all supervisors to check all visitors for identification. For Cal OSHA and other enforcement agencies, the supervisor should advise the government agent to wait while the supervisor calls the designated person (safety/HR/Employer) authorized to allow visitor access to the field. All non-authorized visitors, including UFW and CRLA representatives should be respectfully directed to leave the private property.

More comments from HR Mobile Services, Inc.:

Your best defense is good compliance.  Make sure you have plenty of COOL water available, with disposable cups if you use Igloos.  Make sure you have someone refilling the buckets regularly and that they have ice to keep it cool. You must have adequate shade and seating for your employees who are outside and under HIGH HEAT situations.  You must institute the “buddy system”, your supervisors need to monitor all employees hourly, and more frequent breaks are needed.  Employees are allowed cool-down periods also.  New employees must be monitored and oriented to the high heat for their first 2 weeks at work, to allow them to adapt.

If you have any questions, you may contact your loss prevention specialist at HR Mobile Services, Inc.