California Lawmakers Approve Change to Workplace Injury Reporting

California Lawmakers Approve Change to Workplace Injury Reporting

California employers will have to immediately report serious occupational injuries and illnesses and workplace fatalities to the state by phone or an online system if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a bill that legislators recently sent his way.

Employers in the state must complete a report—on a form provided by the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)—for every employee's injury or illness that results in lost time beyond the date of the incident and requires medical treatment beyond first aid.

Additionally, employers must report all serious occupational injuries and illnesses, as well as fatalities, to the DIR's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) by telephone or e-mail within eight hours of when the employer knew or should have known about the incident.

Under AB 1804, however, employers would no longer be able to report serious incidents through e-mail once Cal/OSHA establishes the online reporting system. Though, employers would still be able to report incidents by phone.

The California Legislature approved the bill on Aug. 12 and Newsom has until Oct. 12 to sign it. If approved, the new law would take effect in January 2020.

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.

E-mail Reporting Deemed Problematic

Advocates for AB 1804 said that e-mail reporting is problematic. Specifically, e-mailed incident reports may be incomplete and fail to provide meaningful information to Cal/OSHA about the workplace incident. As a result, Cal/OSHA may not be able to promptly investigation the situation or take other action to ensure workplace safety. The bill's sponsors said online reporting would allow Cal/OSHA to "implement a more effective and responsive reporting system."

(The National Law Review)

'Serious Injury or Illness' Defined

With some exceptions, California law defines a work-related "serious injury or illness" as requiring inpatient hospitalization for more than 24 hours (for more than just medical observation), the loss of a body part or a serious degree of permanent disfigurement.

(California Department of Industrial Relations)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Complying with California Safety Standards]

California Workplace Safety Standards Exceed OSHA's Rules

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) allows states to develop their own workplace health and safety plans, as long as those plans are "at least as effective" as the federal program. So some states, such as California, have rules that are more stringent than the federal requirements, and some have standards that are not addressed by federal OSHA. For example, Cal/OSHA addresses working in high temperatures outdoors and requires employers to have written injury and illness prevention programs, while federal OSHA does not.

(SHRM Online)

Federal and State Record-Keeping Rules May Vary

Employers that are covered by federal OSHA's record-keeping rules must post a summary of work-related injury and illnesses in a noticeable place for a certain period each year. Federal regulations limit the degree to which state OSHA plans can vary their record-keeping requirements, but California and federal safety provisions have key differences that employers should note.

(California Department of Industrial Relations)


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