Cal/OSHA Empowered by California Senate Bill 606

Here are some things employers need to know:

California’s new Senate Bill 606 went into effect January 1, 2022, and includes two components that put more punch in Cal/OSHA’s power to enforce workplace regulations and penalize violations. Cal/OSHA’s expanded ability to pursue enterprise-wide citations by presuming multiple site violations when inspecting, and ability to issue citations for egregious violations has been bolstered by this bill.

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Enterprise-Wide Violations

SB 606 now allows Cal/OSHA to take into consideration the employer’s history at all locations and possibly use that history to invoke an enterprise-wide violation with or without inspection at each site. The bill also authorizes Cal/OSHA to issue an enterprise-wide citation requiring abatement if the employer fails to rebut such a presumption. Abatement may potentially require an employer to cease practice or close until a statement of abatement, certifying that the employer has acted and shown specifically what has done to fix each violation, is filed and accepted by Cal/OSHA. Managers who interact with Cal/OSHA need to pay close attention to their communications during an inspection and provide pertinent information to reduce the risk of enterprise-wide violations. Handling any Cal/OSHA citation at all sites with careful attention to avoid the “pattern and practice” trigger, which under SB 606 allows Cal/OSHA to invoke enterprise-wide citations, should be considered. 

Egregious Violations

If Cal/OSHA determines an employer has egregiously and willfully violated an occupational health regulation, SB 606 authorizes them to issue a citation for an “egregious violation” order, or regulation. A violation is considered “egregious” if one or more of the following is true:

  • The employer intentionally, consciously, with voluntary action or inaction, made no reasonable effort to eliminate the known violation.
  • The violations resulted in worker fatalities, a worksite catastrophe, or many injuries or illnesses.
  • The violations resulted in persistently high rates of worker injuries or illnesses.
  • The employer has an extensive history of prior violations.
  • The employer has intentionally disregarded its health and safety responsibilities.
  • The employer’s conduct, taken as a whole, amounts to clear bad faith in the performance of its duties.
  • The employer has committed many violations that has significantly undermined the effectiveness of any safety and health program that may be in place.

Each instance of an employee’s exposure to an egregious violation is a separate violation. This could result in extremely large penalties imposed by Cal/OSHA. Also, once a violation is determined to be egregious, the determination is in effect for five years.

Here are some things for employers to consider:

  • Regularly review Cal/OSHA regulations to ensure that your workplace is in compliance.
  • Maintain a strong safety culture in the workplace.
  • Foster effective communication, employee training, and comply and cooperate with all auditing and inspection requests by Cal/OSHA.
  • Employers should review their written policies to ensure compliance with Cal/OSHA standards.

The Cooperative of American Physicians would like members to be aware of the increased power Cal/OSHA now wields because of SB 606. Even if you have a small practice without multiple locations, you could still be at risk of enhanced penalties and enforcement mechanisms provided to Cal/OSHA under this new law. CAP physician members are reminded to continually evaluate and update their workplace safety protocols and policies to protect their patients, employees, and practices. 

For more information and for questions about business insurance coverage for your practice, please contact CAP Agency at 800-819-0061 or at CAPAgency@CAPphysicians.com.

Resources:
Full Text of California Senate Bill 606: Bill Text - SB-606 Workplace safety: violations of statutes: enterprise-wide violations: egregious violations. (https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202...)

Cal/OSHA Website: Cal/OSHA - Division of Occupational Safety and Health - Home Page (www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/)