What does a Small Business Owner need to know about Cal/OSHA?
Nov. 2018: By Susan Browne Rosenberg, CIH, CIEC (expired 02/2020), CHMM
President, Desert Cities Indoor Air, LLC
In California, the Division of Industrial Relations (DIR) oversees the Health and Safety of nearly 20 million workers in our state. This division also investigates wage disputes and workers compensation insurance claims. Within the DIR is the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, which according to their website¹, protects and improves the health and safety of working men and women in California and the safety of passengers riding on elevators, amusement rides, and tramways – through the following activities:
- Setting and enforcing standards.
- Providing outreach, education, and assistance.
- Issuing permits, licenses, certifications, registrations, and approvals.
Cal/OSHA is divided into two sides: enforcement and consultation. Field Enforcement Officers (inspectors) respond to reported on the job deaths and severe injuries, and to reports of dangerous working conditions. There are currently less than 230 inspectors in our state which represents an inspector to worker ratio of 1 inspector to about 88,000 workers, far less health protective than Washington State’s ratio of 1 to 25,000, and Oregon’s ratio of 1 to 22,000.
These inspectors must enforce the thousands of pages of regulations on the books that were written to protect employees working in the “Dangerous Trades.” Industries known to be the most hazardous jobs are strictly regulated. These industries include Petroleum Refineries, Mines and Tunnels, Shipbuilders, Logging, Agriculture and Construction. Here in the Coachella Valley, we have Agriculture and Construction. Those two sectors are dominated by large corporations with risk managers and safety professionals. Family farms with no employees are not generally covered under the Ag rules.
Self-employed workers with no employees are generally exempt from most of the Cal/OSHA regulations. As small businesses grow and add employees, the compliance regulations grow as well. As soon as you hire an employee, you need to consider the laws that require you to train that employee properly and ensure that they return home to their families safely at the end of the work day. When you hit 10 employees, more regulations kick in and as you hit larger workforce numbers, the rules and regulations multiply as well.
The Basic standards that apply to most businesses in General Industry (not Construction or other hazardous business specifically regulated) are called prescriptive programs. The Injury and Illness Prevention Program (Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR) section 3203 and 1509) requires every California employer to have an IIPP to promote health and safety in the workplace. If you have 9 or less employees, some of the regulations may be exempt.
If you have hazardous materials in the workplace such as pesticides or solvents, you must comply with the Hazard Communication Standard (CCR 5194). Safety Data Sheets (SDS) must be maintained and shared with the employees. Documented training of workers is very important. When an accident occurs, the investigation will determine whether an employee was properly trained and had the necessary tools to prevent injury, or not. Serious injuries must be recorded on the Cal/OSHA 300 form for businesses with 10 or more employees. Click here to download a form. https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/DoshReg/ApndxA300Final.pdf
In 2018, Federal OSHA passed a rule mandating the electronic reporting of injuries for all companies with 250 or more employees.² The Injury Tracking Application (or ITA) records your injuries in a huge database used to identify high hazard industries. For establishments with 20-249 employees that are required to report, OSHA estimates that it will take a typical employer about 10 minutes to create an account and another 10 minutes to enter the required information from the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (Form 300A). High hazard industries that must report electronically include a wide variety of businesses from grocery and home furnishing stores to transportation industries and schools and nursing care facilities.
You can read the California version of the rule and what industries are included here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/doshreg/Recording-and-Reporting/Text-of-Amended-Regulation-Revised.pdf
What are the most common injuries on the job? Falls, trips and slips are number one and can happen anywhere at any time. Failure to focus on a task is becoming more of a problem in a work place with so many cell phone distractions. Workplace violence is on the increase. Improper lifting and twisting in hotels has caused so many injuries that there is now a Cal/OSHA Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program (MIPP) for training housekeepers.
The bottom line is that if you have employees, make certain that you are Cal/OSHA compliant.