Report: Cal-OSHA’s Low Staffing Levels Put Workers’ Health at Risk
The health and safety of workers in California are at risk because of a lack of state workplace inspectors, according to a new report examining staffing at the California Division of Occupational Safety & Health, the Los Angeles Times reports (Lifsher/Garrison, Los Angeles Times, 2/10).
Details of Report
The report was released by Garrett Brown, a former special assistant to the head of Cal-OSHA (Ortiz, "The State Worker," Sacramento Bee, 2/10).
According to the report, the state has fewer workplace inspectors than it did 25 years ago, despite an increase in the number of workers during that time.
At the end of 2013, the state had 170 inspectors, or one inspector for every 109,000 workers. That number marks an:
- 8% decline from 1989; and
- 11% decline from 2011.
Meanwhile, Cal-OSHA statistics released last week found that the number of on-site workplace inspections declined from about 9,000 to 10,000 per year from 1992 to 2002 to fewer than 8,000 per year in 2011 and 2012.
In addition, the number of violations the agency issued dropped from 20,000 per year during the 1990s and early 2000s to 15,000 in 2012. The number of "serious" citations that could harm workers declined from 4,000 to 7,000 per year in the 1990s and 2000s to 2,700 in 2012.
Brown called Cal-OSHA's staffing levels "dangerously low." He added, "Not having enough compliance inspectors means that Cal-OSHA is not able to respond to worker complaints in the time period" called for by the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, or Fed-OSHA.
In response to the report, watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said it will file a formal complaint with Fed-OSHA against Cal-OSHA, specifically noting that the agency does not meet minimum safety standards.
Gail Bateson, executive director of advocacy group Worksafe, said, "Employers are responsible for providing a safe place to work. And it's the government's job to make sure they do it." She added, "With the current level of resources, the agency is not able to do what it's supposed to do."
However, Christine Baker -- director of the California Department of Industrial Relations, which oversees Cal-OSHA -- said the state employs 182 inspectors and is set to hire an additional 41 after July 1.
She noted that Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) fiscal year 2014-2015 budget proposal would allot more resources to the agency (Los Angeles Times, 2/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.