Protecting Workers under the New Administration

Posted on Nov 23, 2016
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by Douglas Parker, Executive Director

I’m not going to play political scientist and give you my analysis of the election, as tempting as that might be. Nor am I going to write about what I think this election and its outcome are doing to this country. There are people far more eloquent, and who face potential consequences much more personally than I do, and I encourage you to give your attention to those voices.

What I want to write about is what a Trump Administration could mean for the health and safety of workers. The Obama Administration deserves tremendous credit for new worker protections such as the silica and black lung standards, its emphasis on protecting workers who blow the whistle on workplace hazards, and the enhanced use of enforcement powers against chronic violators. While we benefit from some degree of isolation from federal policy because California has a state occupational safety and health plan, federal rollbacks of health and safety protection policies and resources would still significantly impact California workers.

Budget Cuts Could Leave Workers in the Cold

One of the simplest and most damaging ways for the new Administration to make an impact on safety and health is through the budgeting process. The majorities of both houses and the President-Elect believe regulations like worker protections are the primary obstacle to greater economic growth. Despite being chronically underfunded to carry out its mandate already, we can expect this philosophy to lead to efforts to diminish OSHA by strangling it of funding. These efforts could come sooner rather than later, especially if the current Congress is unable to reach some form of a budget agreement this session and leaves it to the next Congress and President to finalize a budget.

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Employers found in violation of law for indoor heat hazards

Posted on Oct 9, 2015
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WWU_Pic_250x250Four years after Domingo Blancas’ brush with death on the job, the California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (Board) has upheld citations issued to his employers for failing to have an effective IIPP (Injury and Illness Prevention Program) that addressed the hazard of indoor heat.

Worksafe – along with Alexander Community Law Center at SCU, and Warehouse Worker Resource Center – represented Domingo before the Board, and together we succeeded in getting justice for him and all the other workers exposed to this preventable hazard.

Domingo worked in an Inland Empire warehouse that serves retail giants such as Walmart. He was employed by a temporary staffing agency, Tri-State Staffing (TSI), and hired to work for the warehouse operator, National Distribution Center (NDC).

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Injuries and deaths on minds of striking Steelworkers

Posted on Feb 9, 2015
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The Pump Handle

This post originally appeared on The Pump Handle, on February 5, 2015
By Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH of Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University

Workplace safety is one of the core issues of concern for the thousands of refinery workers who went on strike February 1 at plants in Texas, California, Washington, and Kentucky. The workers are members of the United Steelworkers (USW), and say their employers— LyondellBasell, Marathon Oil, and Royal Dutch Shell—put lives at risk with excessive work hours, delayed maintenance, and production pressure. Their previous contract was negotiated and approved in 2012.

“Union members believe it is time to take a stand,” USW spokesperson Lynn Hancock told the Houston Chronicle. “If we don’t, our people will continue to get injured and killed on the job.” The last time there was a walk-out of this magnitude by the USW was 1980.

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Meal & Rest Break Rights Decision Coming

Posted on May 28, 2010
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Courthouse_Columns California Supreme Court Set To Address Workers’ Meal And Rest Break Rights
May 27th, 2010 | Patrick R. Kitchin | W-F Blog

The California Supreme Court is expected to render a decision in the Brinker v. Superior Court case later this year that will answer critical legal questions about the meal and rest break rights of hourly workers in California.

At issue in the case is when and under what circumstances workers are entitled under California law to rest and meal breaks.

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Three Cal/OSHA Rulemaking Packages Soon

Posted on May 14, 2010
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DOSH Says Three Big Rulemaking Packages Are Coming Soon
Cal-OSHA Reporter
April 29, 2010

It looks to be a busy spring and summer on the Cal/OSHA regulatory front, with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) expected to promulgate three major rulemaking packages soon.

DOSH is in the final stages of crafting an affirmative defense for controlling employers on multiemployer worksites, a revamping of the division’s penalty structure for employers who receive Cal/OSHA citations, and a Director’s regulation clarifying what constitutes a serious violation.
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Appeals Board Erred on Harris Decision

Posted on Apr 6, 2010
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Judge Says Appeals Board Erred on Harris DAR, Orders New Decision
Cal-OSHA Reporter
Friday, March 26, 2010

SACRAMENTO — California’s Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board overstepped its bounds when it sided with an employer and ruled in 2007 that the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) must prove that so-called “controlling employers” are in a position to abate specific hazards on multiemployer worksites, a Sacramento Superior Court judge has concluded.

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Safety Board Accused of Pro-Business Bias

Posted on Mar 11, 2010
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Cal/OSHA appeals panel tends to side with employers in cases of workplace injury, the head of the Senate's Labor Committee says.

By Jessica Garrison
Los Angeles Times
March 10, 2010

The head of the state Senate's Labor Committee accused a workplace safety board Wednesday of being biased toward employers and ignoring a law that requires fines for failing to report on-the-job injuries.

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Panel Rejects Methyl Iodide

Posted on Feb 23, 2010
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EPA says it will consider California's science in its rules
By Wes Sander
Capital Press
Saturday, February 20, 2010

SACRAMENTO -- A scientific review panel says methyl iodide poses significant human-health risks and would be difficult to control in farm applications.

The report could impact the chemical's status as a federally registered pesticide.

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The Burden of Heat Illness On The Wrong Player

Posted on Nov 4, 2009
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Agricultural_Workers

A San Diego Union-Tribune article about heat regulations in California workplaces, particularly farms and construction sites, struck a chord with the Worksafe team.

To prevent unnecessary tragedies, Worksafe recommends a comprehensive standard that requires the employer to provide breaks before symptoms occur (which may impair a worker's ability to think clearly and request a break) and does not require the worker to request a break.

The employer could use simple tools such as the Heat Index pen to check temperature and humidity, with a factor for direct sun exposure added, and follow Cal/OSHA recommended rest break schedules.

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Promises of Appeals Board Reform

Posted on Aug 24, 2009
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Congress Building by Michael Smith

The Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board convened an advisory committee meeting in Oakland Thursday in the face of numerous complaints that it is undermining worker health and safety in California.

Frustrated by the Board’s inaction after months of airing their complaints, 47 Cal/OSHA inspectors signed a June letter protesting arbitrary and unreasonable decisions and practices of the Board that have resulted in cases being unfairly dismissed, witnesses disappearing because of unnecessary continuances of cases, and the waste of Cal/OSHA time and money.

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