Delinquent State OSH Plans, Particularly Cal/OSHA, Catch-up with Fed OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

When fed OSHA promulgated the Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule) in 2016, it built into the Rule a mandate that all State Plans adopt substantially identical requirements to the final E-Recordkeeping Rule within six months after its publication.  However, because State Plans all have their own legislative or rulemaking processes, they cannot simply snap their fingers and instantly adopt a new Rule even if required to do so by fed OSHA.  Also importantly, the State Plans, as well as all employers in the regulated community, were getting mixed signals about the future of the E-Recordkeeping Rule from fed OSHA under the new Trump Administration.

Accordingly, although most of the 20+ State Plans acted promptly to promulgate their own version of the E-Recordkeeping rule, leading up to the first injury data submission deadline last year, several State OSH Plans had not yet adopted their own version of an E-Recordkeeping Rule.  Specifically, as of the end of 2017, these eight State Plans had not yet adopted (and some, like California, had not even started the process to adopt) an E-Recordkeeping Rule:

  • California (Cal/OSHA);
  • Washington (WA DLI, WISHA, or DOSH);
  • Maryland (MOSH);
  • Minnesota (MNOSHA);
  • South Carolina (SC OSHA);
  • Utah (UOSH);
  • Wyoming (WY OSHA); and
  • Vermont (VOSHA).

Given the uncertainty of the fate of the E-Recordkeeping Rule after the transition to the Trump Administration and OSHA’s announcement that it would soon issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revisit the E-Recordkeeping Rule, each of these State Plans except for Vermont OSHA continued to delay adopting the Rule even as we approached the second data submission deadline of July 2018.  And that is when fed OSHA started to speak up.

OSHA’s April 30, 2018 Press Release

On April 30, 2018, OSHA issued a press release announcing that employers in all State Plan States (not the State Plans themselves) must implement OHSA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule.  In the press release, OSHA states that it had determined that:

Section 18(c)(7) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, and relevant OSHA regulations pertaining to State Plans, require all affected employers to submit injury and illness data in the ITA, “even if the employer is covered by a State Plan that has not completed adoption of their own state rule.”

State Plan State Responses

The remaining seven State Plan States provided conflicting responses to fed OSHA’s directive – falling into three categories: Read More

Conn Maciel Carey Adds Seasoned Employment Attorney Megan Stevens Shaked to Expand its California Practice

Conn Maciel Carey is pleased to announce that Megan Stevens Shaked has joined the firm as a senior associate in its San Francisco, CA office.  Ms. Shaked, an experienced employment litigator, will represent clients in a wide-range of employment-related litigation, and counsel clients in myriad legal issues that California employers face in the workplace.

“Megan brings a depth of experience with employment litigation, counseling and training that will enhance the employment law services we provide to employers across all industries,” said Andrew J. Sommer, head of the firm’s California practice.

She will also represent clients in connection with inspections, investigations and enforcement actions involving Cal/OSHA and other OSH-related matters on the West Coast.

“Megan is an ideal attorney to help grow our California practice in general, and our Cal/OSHA bench in particular,” said Eric J. Conn, a co-founder of the firm and Chair of the firm’s national OSHA Practice.  “California is a prominent base for our firm’s work, and Megan brings deep experience with the full range of employment issues that California employers face, including navigating the challenging waters of Cal/OSHA.”

Read More

Conn Maciel Carey Adds Seasoned Employment Attorney Megan Stevens Shaked to Expand its California Practice

Conn Maciel Carey is pleased to announce that Megan Stevens Shaked has joined the firm as a senior associate in its San Francisco, CA office.  Ms. Shaked, an experienced employment litigator, will represent clients in a wide-range of employment-related litigation, and counsel clients in myriad legal issues that California employers face in the workplace.

“Megan brings a depth of experience with employment litigation, counseling and training that will enhance the employment law services we provide to employers across all industries,” said Andrew J. Sommer, head of the firm’s California practice.

She will also represent clients in connection with inspections, investigations and enforcement actions involving Cal/OSHA and other OSH-related matters on the West Coast.

“Megan is an ideal attorney to help grow our California practice in general, and our Cal/OSHA bench in particular,” said Eric J. Conn, a co-founder of the firm and Chair of the firm’s national OSHA Practice.  “California is a prominent base for our firm’s work, and Megan brings deep experience with the full range of employment issues that California employers face, including navigating the challenging waters of Cal/OSHA.”

Ms. Shaked has successful first-chair experience in employment law trials, and brings a creative approach to resolving tricky client issues.  Those qualities fit perfectly with the CMC model.  Ms. Shaked added that: Read More

[WEBINAR RECORDING] Important Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Track

On July 10, 2018, Conn Maciel Carey attorneys Andrew J. SommerEric J. Conn, and Megan S. Shaked presented a webinar: “Key Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Track.”

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, is perhaps the most aggressive and enforcement-heavy approved state OSH Program in the nation.  California employers face a host of requirements that other employers around the country do not.  Likewise, the Cal/OSHA inspection and appeal process creates several unique landmines for California employers.

Of particular significance, in the coming year, California employers can expect an uptick in Cal/OSHA penalties as result of two significant changes, one adopting higher maximum civil penalty authority, and the other changing how the agency finds and cites violations characterized as Repeat.

During this webinar, participants learned about: Read More

Cal/OSHA Compels Hospitality Employers to Clean Up Their Act, Ergonomically Speaking

By Aaron R. Gelb and Andrew J. Sommer

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the single most common type of work-related injury, but federal OSHA has struggled for decades to develop a coherent regulatory and/or enforcement strategy to address the hazards that cause these ergonomic injuries.  Where federal OSHA fell short, the State of California has picked up the slack, with Cal-OSHA recently finalizing a safety standard regarding Housekeeping Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention.  The standard, which will go into effect this summer applies to all lodging establishments that offer sleeping accommodations available to be rented by members of the public, and requires operators to develop, implement and maintain a written Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program tailored to hazards associated with housekeeping.

Background About Ergonomics

An ergonomic hazard is a physical factor within the work environment that has the potential to cause a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).  MSDs are injuries and disorders that affect the human body’s movement or musculoskeletal system; i.e., muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, etc.  Common ergonomic hazards include repetitive movement, manual handling, workplace design, uncomfortable workstation height, and awkward body positioning.  The most frequent ergonomic injuries (or musculoskeletal disorders) include muscle/tendon strains, sprains, and back pains, Carpal Tunnel SyndromeTendonitis, Degenerative Disc Disease, Ruptured / Herniated Disc, etc., caused by performing the same motion over and over again (such as vacuuming), overexertion of physical force (lifting heavy objects), or working while in an awkward position (twisting your body to reach up or down to perform a work task). Read More

Cal/OSHA’s Workplace Violence Rules for Health Care Take Effect April 2017

By Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn

Effective April 1, 2017, a new California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Standards Board”) regulation at Title 8, Section 3342 requires certain employers in the health care industry to develop and implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.  The passage of these regulations came after nearly two years of meeting and work within the Agency, and more than two years after the California legislature passed Senate Bill 1299, which instructed the Standards Board to implement these workplace violence regulations.

Rules Apply to Health Care Facilities

Senate Bill 1299 only directed the Standards Board to adopt regulations requiring licensed hospitals to adopt violence prevention plans to protect health care workers and other facility personnel from aggressive and violent behavior.  The regulations that were adopted by the Standards Board, however, apply not just to licensed hospitals, but more broadly to any “health facility,” defined as: Read More

Low Hanging Grapes – Cal/OSHA Standards Frequently Cited Against Winemakers

By Andrew J. Sommer and Lindsay A. DiSalvo

With the harvest upon us in California wine country, now is a great time to remind wineries and vineyards operating within the Golden Gate of those Cal/OSHA standards most often cited against this industry.  The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), which is charged with enforcing the state’s workplace safety standards, frequently cites wine industry businesses for failing to comply with several California-unique standards, cal-osha-wine-5such as the heat illness prevention rule and chemical right-to-know hazard communication requirements, as well as failing to comply with confined space and respiratory protection standards. We highlight these key Cal/OSHA standards and their impact on the wine industry.

Vineyards Vexed by Heat Illness Prevention Standard

California has adopted a Heat Illness Prevention Standard (§3395), which initially in 2005 was an emergency regulation. DOSH considers enforcement of the heat illness prevention standard to be Read More

[WEBINAR RECORDING] California “Suitable Seating” – the Legal and Ergonomics Landscape

On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, Andrew J. Sommer (employment law partner at Conn Maciel Carey) and Brandy Ware (PhD Ergonomist and Principal at JFAssociates) presented a webinar about the legal and practical implications of California’s “Suitable Seating” law and litigation landscape.

In advance of the webinar, the employment attorneys at Conn Maciel Carey and the Ergonomics Experts at JFAssociates co-authored a detailed article about the California Supreme Court’s new, significant opinion that changed the landscape of California’s suitable seating in the workplace requirements.  Specifically, the new ruling places the question of whether the “nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats” squarely at the center of a new cottage industry of class and collective action lawsuits in California.

This joint webinar by Conn Maciel Carey’s Employment Law Practice and the leading ergonomics experts at JFAssociates reviewed: Read More

Article: California Supreme Court Ruling on Suitable Seating: Legal and Ergonomics Perspectives

By Andrew J. Sommer, Esq. and Brandy Farris Ware, PhD, CPE, CSSBB

A recent California Supreme Court ruling provides crucial new guidance on how courts should weigh the evidence in so-called “suitable seating” cases, which employee litigants are bringing under the state requirement that employers provide seats to workers where the nature of their work “reasonably permits” the use of seating.

This is a key emerging issue for the Golden State’s business community, with a new cottage industry of lawsuits stemming from a state appellate court decision several years ago allowing “suitable seating” litigation under the California Private Attorney General Act (PAGA). The ruling encouraged new lawsuits because penalties as well as attorney’s fees and costs may be awarded under PAGA.

The California Supreme Court handed down an opinion April 4, 2016 in response to questions posed by two federal lawsuits, setting out new ground rules for what actually constitutes “suitable seating” under the law. Suitable SeatingEmployers with locations in California are well-advised to evaluate their work environments in light of these latest developments and consider the need for workplace safety experts to assess their individual circumstances. Not only can such evaluations, based on the new Supreme Court guidance, help employers head off litigation (or at least reach a favorable outcome if sued), they also can lower other risk factors and costs like worker’s compensation.

The Court adopted a fact-based approach that depends not on the entire job, but on the specific task(s) a worker is performing when the question of seating arises.  Accordingly, an expert ergonomics assessment of specific job tasks is critical for California employers. This can help determine Read More

OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program: A Severe Injustice

By Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group

It has been five years since OSHA launched its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”), and two years since an agency White Paper trumpeted the program’s “strong start” and progress SVEP White Paper Imageon “key goals.”  A closer examination of OSHA’s SVEP data, however, reveals that:

  • SVEP disproportionately targets small employers;
  • SVEP cases are contested more often than other OSHA citations;
  • OSHA has trouble conducting follow-up inspections of small employers, especially those in the construction industry; and
  • The program fails to reach the recalcitrant employers it was designed to target.

The fact is, SVEP (which succeeded OSHA’s controversial Enhanced Enforcement Program) has shown troubling trends from the start. Not only do the criteria weigh against smaller employers, but the consequences for employers thus labeled are dire, placing them in a precarious position, even before OSHA has proven that the employer violated the law at all, let alone in such an egregious manner as to warrant inclusion in SVEP.

Repeat Overkill

SVEP was instituted to target “enforcement efforts on recalcitrant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees.” To that end, OSHA created four categories that would land an employer in SVEP. However, over the life of the program, one qualifying category has been invoked predominantly: an employer who has two or more willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate citations related to High Emphasis Hazards (NF-2WRF). Read More

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