California’s New Law Requires Cal/OSHA To Provide Copies of Citations Issued To Contractors to The Contractor’s State Licensing Board

On September 15, 2016, Governor Brown approved Senate Bill 465 which requires the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, after consultation with the California Contractors’ State Licensing Board, to transmit to the Board copies of any citations or other actions taken by the Division against a contractor.

Existing law allows the Board to license, regulate, and discipline contractors for their construction activities. Senate Bill 465 now requires the Division to consult with the board and transmit any citations or other actions taken by the Division against a contractor. The bill would authorize the board to enter into an interagency agreement with any other state or local agency that may have possession of information relevant to protect the public.

The bill also requires a licensee to report to the registrar within 90 days of the date it received notice of any felony or criminal conviction related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensed contractor.

This new collaboration of state organizations is sure to create new difficulties for contractors. Once a citation is received, the Division may hand over the citation regardless of whether the contractor is guilty of violating the citation and the Board is likely to issue disciplinary actions if the Board determines that the contractor is acting in a way that it negatively affects the pubic.   It is essential that contractors actively engage in their safety and health efforts to avoid receiving a citation.

OSHA Requests Information on Shipyard Safety Rules Covering Falls

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is considering updating its safety standards covering falls in shipbuilding, ship repair, shipbreaking, and other shipyard-related employment and has issued a Request for Information. Comments and materials must be submitted by December 7, 2016. To read the full article, written by Tressi Cordaro, click here.

OSHA Issues Report on the Impact of the Severe Injury Reporting Program

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, issued a new report, discussing the results of the first year of the severe injury reporting requirements. The report concludes that the severe injury reporting program has been a big success in improving safety and health in workplaces across the United States, and in helping OSHA focus its resources where most needed. OSHA recognizes, however, that more still needs to be done to reduce the number of in-patient hospitalizations and amputations in today’s work places and hold employer’s accountable for such severe injuries.

Under a rule that took effect on January 1, 2015, employers are required to report to OSHA within 24 hours any work-related amputations, in-patient hospitalization or eye loss. In the first full year of severe injury reporting, employers reported 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations to OSHA.  This data is from federal OSHA states only and does not include severe injuries from state-plan states that administer their own safety and health programs.

Manufacturing (26%), construction (19%) and transportation and warehousing (11%) had the greatest number of reported hospitalizations in 2015.  Manufacturing (57%) and construction (10%) also had the greatest number of reported amputations in 2015.   OSHA believes that most of the hazards that led to these severe injuries “are well-understood and easily prevented.”

OSHA notes that the objective of the severe injury reporting program is “to encourage employers to evaluate their own processes and equipment and determine what went wrong.” OSHA believes that when employers evaluate their own processes during the severe injury reporting process (rather than by OSHA through an inspection), employers are more likely to take action that will prevent future injuries.

To better manage its resources and engage employers in actively addressing safety and health, OSHA responded to 62% of severe injury reports by asking employers to conduct their own incident investigations and propose remedies to prevent future injuries to OSHA. In this approach, known as a Rapid Response Investigation, the employer is expected to investigate the causes of the severe injury and present to OSHA its findings and proposed abatement methods.  With this approach, the focus is more on identifying and fixing the problem quickly versus citing employers for OSHA violations.

OSHA concludes

We have found this process to be extremely effective in abating hazards while also using far fewer OSHA resources than are required for on-site inspections. In this way, we are able to use agency resources more efficiently and, ultimately, better protect the safety and health of workers.

In a rare acknowledgment of most employer’s good faith, OSHA notes most employers were eager to cooperate with OSHA and prevent future injuries and that “many went above and beyond what was required by OSHA to protect their employees.”

While the program appears to be working in most instances, OSHA believes that as many as 50% of employers may not be reporting severe injuries to OSHA. OSHA bases this conclusion on injury claim numbers provided to it by state workers’ compensation programs and other unidentified factors.   OSHA thinks that many small and mid-size employers are not reporting their severe injuries because they either may not be aware of the new requirements or because they think the cost of not reporting to OSHA is low.

OSHA states that it is developing outreach strategies to help small and mid-size employers understand the requirements.  OSHA also states it will be citing more employers for non-reporting in the second year of the program and beyond if it finds that an employer did not report amputations and hospitalizations.

You can read the full report here.

OSHA Clarifies Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard for Moving Grave Headstones, Monuments

Using a crane to move headstones and small monuments is “generally” not defined as construction, but the crane operator is still responsible for stringent worker-safety rules regarding crane operations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has advised in response to a question from an Arkansas granite and marble cemetery monument delivery company. To read the full article, click here.

The Review Commission (OSHRC) Announces New E-File System

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission (OSHRC) is the Federal agency that adjudicates contested OSHA citations between employers and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

On September 1, 2016 OSHRC announced the availability of “electronic filing and service of litigation documents” before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. According to the agency’s press release “Modernizing the Agency’s procedures and bringing it into the 21st century has been a years-long process and Chair Attwood praised the much-anticipated development, which will greatly facilitate increased efficiency in case docketing and management both inside the Agency and for the parties who appear before it.”

Previously parties before OSHRC had to file by mail, fax or through electronic mail with the consent of both parties. The new “e-file” system will allows parties to efficiently file pleadings and access dockets in cases for which they are a party. Registration is through the OSHRC website.

State Safety Plans Object to Federal OSHA Fine Increases

State workplace safety agencies raised objections to adopting federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s penalty increases in letters to the Department of Labor on OSHA’s interim final rule, Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Catch-Up Adjustment. To read the full article, written by Nickole Winnett, click here.