On July 10, 2018, Conn Maciel Carey attorneys Andrew J. Sommer, Eric 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.
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 Syndrome, Tendonitis, 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
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.
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
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, such 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
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
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. Employers 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
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 on “key goals.” A closer examination of OSHA’s SVEP data, however, reveals that:
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.
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