Agency Oversight: Watchdogging Cal/OSHA


California is one of twenty-six states that run their own worker safety and health program under the supervision of Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The government agencies charged with protecting the health and safety of workers are the following:

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH or Cal/OSHA) enforces health and safety laws. It inspects workplaces, responds to complaints from workers, investigates work-related deaths and injuries, issues citations, assesses penalties for violations and prosecutes employers. Cal/OSHA also provides free, on-site consultation services to employers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (OSHAB) reviews employer appeals of citations and penalty assessments, either affirming, revising or reversing citations or penalty amounts issued by Cal/OSHA.

The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is responsible for adopting regulations to protect workers from hazards such as minimum safeguards for the use of power-activated tools, heat exposure, and permissible exposure limits (PELs) for toxic chemicals.

History of protecting workers' safety and health


California has a long history of protecting workers’ safety and health. As early as 1913, California developed its own safety standards, and for the next 60 years the State continually strengthened occupational safety laws, standards, and enforcement.

In 1970, the United States Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act, establishing a fundamental principle that all workers have the right to a workplace that does not endanger their health and safety. This principle has been part of California’s health and safety law for half a century.

In 1973, to preserve state jurisdiction over occupational safety and health, the California Legislature enacted the California Occupational Safety and Health Act. Advocacy over the last few decades by Worksafe, labor unions, and others has made California laws among the strongest in the nation. California was the first state to adopt regulations covering ergonomics, airborne pathogens, heat, and many other safety and health hazards.

But strong laws do not protect if they are not implemented by employers and vigorously enforced by government agencies. Moreover, delays of years and even decades in adopting regulations to protect workers from newly recognized hazards have resulted in workers being injured and dying from preventable hazards and diseases. To ensure California laws and regulations actually protect workers, Worksafe maintains a watchful eye over Cal/OSHA.