Newsom Signs Bill Expanding Cal/OSHA’s Enforcement Power

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP September 28, 2021

​On Sept. 27, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 606, which expands enforcement power for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (which is known as Cal/OSHA). We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other outlets.

Substantial Changes

The new law, which is expected to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, creates a rebuttable presumption that employers with multiple worksites have made enterprise-wide workplace safety violations in certain circumstances. An employer with a violation at one worksite may be presumed to have similar violations at other worksites. The law also will allow Cal/OSHA to issue a citation to an "egregious" employer for each willful violation. SB 606 will "require each instance of an employee exposed to that violation to be considered a separate violation for purposes of the issuance of fines and penalties," according to the bill. The bill will also provide Cal/OSHA with additional subpoena power during investigations.

(SHRM Online)

Labor Union Supports Changes

Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, sponsored the bill. "The least we can do for our frontline heroes is commit to safe workplaces, which are both critical to the health of essential workers and our state's recovery," she said. 

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council supports the legislation. "Enforcement is essential to ensure worker safety," said Amber Baur, executive director of UFCW Western States Council. "SB 606 will help protect workers and the communities where they live by giving Cal/OSHA the resources they need to do the enforcement work that is essential to keep workers safe on the job and a fine structure that encourages employers to comply."

(UFCW Western States Council)

CalChamber Opposes the Legislation

The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) opposes SB 606. The law significantly expands Cal/OSHA's authority by creating a new "egregious employer" category in the California Labor Code, and it creates a new category of "enterprise-wide" citations "that face higher citation amounts based on, at times, evidence at only one location," CalChamber said. The business advocacy group initially tagged the bill as a "job killer" but removed the designation in March when amendments were made that limited "certain overbroad provisions," CalChamber said. But the organization "remains opposed due to structural changes to Cal/OSHA enforcement."


Impact on Employers

The new provision on "enterprise-wide" citations "is expected to affect construction industry employers with multiple worksites and big-box retailers with multiple sites throughout California, as well as large manufacturers that may have multiple establishments or locations in the state," according to law firm Ogletree Deakins. The law "create[s] a provision that presumes that a violation in one location is evidence of a violation at another location, and it would shift the burden to the employer to prove otherwise."

(Ogletree Deakins)

Complying with California Safety Standards

All private-sector employers operating in California are responsible for complying with the state's applicable workplace safety and health laws, which are overseen and enforced by Cal/OSHA. Businesses that fail to adhere to California's myriad safety standards and orders can face significant penalties for noncompliance. Log in or join SHRM to view this resource.

(SHRM Online)



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