Bills Attacking Safety and Health Standards Board Rile Employers

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, April 8, 2005 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

AB 815 (Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View) and AB 805 (Judy Chu, D- Monterey Park) would significantly alter how the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopts standards in California.  Both bills passed out of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on April 6th on a partisan vote with Democrats voting for the bill over the objections of CMTA and other employer representatives.

The Standards Board is the only agency authorized to adopt, amend, or repeal occupational safety and health standards and orders.  AB 815 would overturn that by inserting an untried and unqualified Department of Health Services Repository. 
AB 815 would require the Standards Board to adopt by certain deadlines standards recommended and forwarded by the Repository. 

The bill also requires the Standards Board to defer to the scientific expertise of the Repository, including any recommendation for a permissible exposure limit (PEL), unless new scientific evidence is made known to the Repository that their recommended PEL would not protect employees. In that case, the Repository would consider the new evidence and make further recommendations. 

The Standards Board is made up of representatives from industry, labor, the public sector and safety and health professionals, all of whom have a vested interest in protecting workers’ health and safety and institutional knowledge of the economic impact, feasibility and enforceability of rules.  Proposed changes to standards are developed by the Board or division’s trained professional staff, usually with the assistance of an advisory committee representing a cross section of industry, labor, the public sector and safety and health professionals.  The standards that emerge from this process usually move through the public hearing process with little controversy and are more readily accepted and implemented in the workplace.

CMTA believes AB 815 would completely usurp the power and authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board and, but for a perfunctory adoption of the repository recommendation, negate any need for the Board.  In addition, it is bad public policy to permit an agency not charged with oversight and enforcement of the regulated community to develop and recommend rules that must be adopted.

CMTA also opposes AB 805 which requires the Standards Board to adopt a highly prescriptive heat stress standard no later than December 1, 2006.  In order to comply, the Standards Board would have to develop a one-size-fits-all standard that would apply to every business in California without exception for size, type, nature of work or the environment. 

For example, during the summer months in the central valley, the high temperature outdoors would routinely trigger the heat stress standard requiring some sort of protective intervention to work outside.  In the case of steel workers, employees would be required to have special clothing, head covering, skin protection, frequent water and work breaks with multiple trips up and down the steel.

Another example would be glass and steel workers’ exposure to heat where it is not feasible to air condition the facility because of the negative effect on the process.  The recommended methods of protection for these workers would in many instances significantly increase the risk to the workers due to the nature of the work and at an enormous cost to employers.

California has the most extensive and effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) in the nation.  Section 6354 of the Labor Code requires California employers to establish, implement and maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program that requires as a minimum:

  • A written plan that details a system for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards, including investigation of the causes of accidents, illnesses and exposures, methods and procedures for correcting workplace hazards on a timely basis;
  • An occupational safety and health training program (including job specific hazard training for each employee’s job assignment);
  • A system to ensure adequate communication between employees and employers without fear of reprisal on the employee’s part;
  • A system for ensuring employee compliance with safe and healthy work practices, including disciplinary actions; and 
  • Maintenance of records on the implementation and operation of the plan.

CMTA believes AB 805 is unnecessary.  Employers are already required to provide their employees with heat stress protection when it is appropriate.  Moreover, under the IIPP, an employer is able to develop and implement workplace protection programs specifically designed to address safety and health issues peculiar to their workplace. 

Rulemaking is a public process where any interested party can influence changes to existing standards, propose new standards or request variances from certain standards. This process would be lost under AB 815 and AB 805 to the detriment of California- based employers and their employees.

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