The Stories Behind the Statistics

Dying at Work ReportOn April 15, 2013, 26-year-old temporary worker David Eleidjian never came home from his job at a Bay Point industrial manufacturing facility. The Iraq war veteran and recent father was caught and pulled into an unguarded spinning shaft, and died later at the hospital.

Four days later, in Santa Rosa, 21-year-old Hugo Tapia also left for his temp work position, at the glass company his father had worked at for decades. He too never returned. Only two weeks into the job, he was crushed by heavy, unsecured glass that fell off an A-frame rack.

In October, amid the tensions of a BART strike brought on in part by concerns over worker safety, BART employee Chris Sheppard and consultant Laurence Daniels were inspecting a dip in the tracks near the Walnut Creek station. They were struck and killed by a train on a maintenance run, driven by a student trainee likely being instructed in the event of a prolonged strike.


Meeting the Needs of California's Workforce

Staffing ShortagesA former Cal/OSHA senior staffer issued a report in early February 2014 that highlights historically low rates of staffing at Cal/OSHA. The report asserts that inadequate numbers of workplace inspectors significantly impacts DOSH’s ability to meet its mandates, including benchmarks set by the federal government for responding to complaints, and state requirements for inspecting tunnels under construction six times a year.

While DIR disputes some of the data in the report, they are in the process of hiring more inspectors and making an effort to get the word out about open positions. At the first Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee meeting of 2014, agency representatives discussed their plans to hire at least 25 inspectors at locations throughout California, with hopefully more positions to be posted soon. Click here for the listing of current opportunities.


The Right to Know, not Right to Guess

Right to KnowFor nearly a year now, Worksafe has been at the forefront of advocates weighing in on proposed changes to California workers’ Right to Know about the chemicals they use on the job. As Worksafe Occupational Health Specialist Dorothy Wigmore wrote in a recent letter (PDF) to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Standards Board”), “A meaningful [right to know] regulation is a long-standing and a key goal when we advocate for protective worker health and safety laws.”

These state-level changes were prompted by changes on the federal level, after OSHA adopted some of the international Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (or GHS) in 2012. Click here to read our previous post for more information on our fight for the Right to Know.


Introducing The Healthy Babies Act of 2014

Mother and ChildThe Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) has selected Nicole Marquez as one of 25 fellows enrolled in a yearlong training program for women activists engaged in social justice work. During this time, the fellows work in teams to develop and implement specific policy initiatives that address the needs of low-income women and families.

Nicole is a member of the Domestic Violence Team, which is working to pass the Healthy Babies Act of 2014, AB 1579, authored by Assembly Member Mark Stone and co-authored by Senator Holly Mitchell.

This bill would change the state’s CalWORKs statute to allow for pregnant women (with no other children in the household) to become eligible for CalWORKs basic needs grants upon verification of the pregnancy.


Room for Improvement: Heat Illness Prevention Rules May See Updates Soon

Heat HazeThis summer is predicted by weather experts to be the hottest on record. And while California's current heat illness prevention standard has led to improvements in those industries covered by the rules, workers are still suffering from heat hazards.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has drafted language for possible changes to the state’s heat illness prevention standard, drawing on comments from labor and worker groups, as well as employers and industry representatives.

DOSH held a stakeholder meeting in Oakland on February 3, 2014 to get feedback on the proposed changes and discuss how these regulations can be improved.


Paid Sick Leave Means Healthy Families and a Healthy Economy

During the recent Partnership for Working Families Summit in LA, Worksafe Executive Director Gail Bateson spoke about the negative health effects that lack of paid sick leave can have on families, workers, and the community at large.

A few weeks later, on February 15th, Bateson discussed the health benefits of paid sick leave at the Lift Up Oakland event.


When Hazards Go Unfixed: Worker Safety and Employer Responsibility

BART_tracksIs there a link between Governor Brown’s veto earlier this month of AB 1165 – which would require employers to immediately abate serious hazards – and the recent deaths of two BART workers, Chris Sheppard and Laurence Daniels, just last week? Could these deaths have been prevented if the law required employers cited by Cal/OSHA to fix serious hazards immediately instead of getting a reprieve for months or years while they argue in court? What track line safety rules do other transit systems follow, and how do they measure up to those used by BART?

On October 19, while working on a track during the BART strike, the two BART workers were struck by a train going as fast as 70 MPH. The workers were told they were responsible for their own safety by maintaining constant vigilance for oncoming trains, thanks to BART’s “simple approval” rule.

But Cal/OSHA had previously found this rule unacceptable and cited BART for several safety violations following the investigation of the 2008 death of BART worker James Strickland.


Protecting California’s Right-To-Know Regulation from Industry Attacks

GHS pictogramsKeep California’s unique right-to-know protections and update the rules about chemical product hazards to better protect worker and public health!

That was the clear message workers’ advocates delivered in testimony and letters to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on October 17. (Click here to download the meeting agenda.) It is a message steeped in history and struggles for the human right to know about hazards at work.

The chemical industry was just as clear. Obscured in the fine print, and hidden behind code words like “harmonization," were their goals: roll back historic protections, safeguard private profits, and keep workers and downstream employers in the dark about the serious hazards they face.


Workers covered in California’s ground-breaking rules

The "Green Chemistry Regulations" are finally coming to town

The long-awaited - and fought for - Safer Consumer Product Regulations take effect on October 1. Often referred to as the “green chemistry regs”, they are the most innovative U.S. rules that aim to improve public health by getting rid of, and reducing the use of, toxic chemicals. And they start in the right place – examining the hazards of chemicals, to prevent harm to the health of people and their environments. The program applies to workplaces and jobs.

CalEPA's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) launched the program on September 26, 2013 completing a journey that started in 2008.


Worksafe Responds to Cal/OSHA Chief’s Resignation

On September 4, 2013, Ellen Widess resigned from her position as Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), also known as Cal/OSHA. Worksafe and many of our allies among unions, worker centers, and OSH professionals were caught off guard by the news; even more startling was the characterization of the OSH community’s reaction by the Cal-OSHA Reporter, which claimed that “both employer and labor representatives were practically jubilant at the news.” Worksafe was the only organization that was quoted on the record; we praised her work in carrying out the mission of the agency: to protect the health and safety of California workers.

A little more than a week later, the Cal-OSHA Reporter printed a handful of letters from agency staff, worker advocate organizations, and OSH professionals who supported her record and chastised the publication for its biased reporting. The Cal-OSHA Reporter mentioned in passing but did not print any of the letters from organized labor. Her detractors remain unidentified.