Could Worksites Soon Get Advance Notice of Cal/OSHA Inspections?

Could Worksites Soon Get Advance Notice of Cal/OSHA Inspections?

A new assembly bill introduced in California could give employers advance notice of Cal/OSHA inspections or investigations.

The global pandemic has changed a lot about the way we work, even the jobs of OSHA inspectors look different these days. Due to the influx of COVID-19 safety measures on worksites in the state, Cal/OSHA inspectors have needed greater coordination with worksites to ensure they are able to complete their inspections and investigations. Could there be a more efficient way?

A new Assembly Bill introduced in February might be the answer. Assembly Bill (AB) 1175, introduced on February 18, 2021, would authorize California employers to receive advance notice of an inspection or investigation if the chief of Cal/OSHA or the chief’s representative approves the notice and “advance notice is necessary to ensure [the] availability of essential personnel or access to the site.”

OH&S reached out to Ogletree Deakins counsel attorney Karen Tynan to learn more about what this AB could mean.

OH&S: How has the pandemic changed the way that Cal/OSHA inspectors do their jobs? What hurdles are present now, that in a pre-pandemic world, they did not have to worry about?

Karen: Typically, inspectors did not have to worry about bringing anything other than standard PPE (gloves, safety glasses, wearing safety shoes, high visibility vest, and hard hat) to a job site. Now, many facilities require face coverings, additional entry screenings, and social distancing which can create more coordination and management of an inspection. We are also seeing many remote (Zoom) interviews which require coordination and technology support to complete. Lastly, frankly, many inspectors and the DOSH counsel have shared with me that they have very high caseloads because of COVID-19. Any steps to help manage resources favor the counsel and inspectors.

OH&S: Cal/OSHA clearly prohibits advance notice of inspections or investigation, but COVID-19 has clearly created obstacles that the agency never accounted for. A new Assembly Bill is looking to authorize California employers to receive advance notice of an inspection. According to AB 1175, how would this work?

Karen: Internally, the bill would require a high level approval process within DOSH (informally referred to as Cal/OSHA) for notification prior to an inspection. The inspector would contact the employer or the employer’s representative and coordinate the site inspection. For example, when an employer reports a serious injury or a fatality, DOSH has the employer’s contact information including a phone number to reach an employer representative. The inspector could arrange a site visit and pre-discuss having a particular piece of machinery available for inspection so that the inspector doesn’t have to wait for the employer to make arrangements, or, for a COVID-19 related example, if an inspector receives a complaint regarding a healthcare facility, the inspector could make pre-arrangements to be properly screened, bring the correct PPE and have witnesses available to minimize waiting times and workplace exposures to COVID-19 during the inspection.

OH&S: Clearly this is a substantial change. How will California employers react to this if enacted?

Karen: California employers will appreciate that they can have more efficient site visits. Multiple inspector visits are a drain on manpower and resources, on both sides of the equation: Inspectors and the Employer’s Management Representative.

OH&S: Are you aware of the timeline for Assembly Bill 1175? Will it be voted on soon?

Karen: The bill is presently in the committee process. I’ve asked a few “Sacramento insiders” and they think the bill has a better than average chance of making it to the Governor’s desk.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the former editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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