All California employers are required by law to provide their staff members with a safe and healthy environment to perform their jobs.
To ensure this, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) establishes and enforces regulations that dictate what companies should do to protect their employees from workplace dangers that can result in illnesses, injuries, or even death.
There are many general Cal/OSHA laws that almost all workplaces must follow, as well as industry-specific standards that employers and employees should be aware of. Some of these California OSHA regulations include:
Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)
California companies must have an IIPP that routinely educates its workforce in a language they understand, basic work safety practices, and dangers unique to each job group.
Additionally, the business is required to maintain accurate records of the actions they’ve undertaken to create and implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standards
Cal/OSHA requires employers — especially those in the manufacturing or construction industries — to supply their staff with high-quality PPE to shield them from risks associated with their jobs. This consists of safety gear for the head, feet, hands, ears, eyes, and respiratory system.
Businesses need to alert workers of possible threats in their place of work using posters, signs, color codes, labels, etc.
Right to Refuse Unsafe Work
An employee has the right to decline an assignment they fear could harm them, provided they have good reason to believe so.
If completing the duties would be against a Cal/OSHA health or safety rule and present a real and clear risk to the worker or those around them, their employer cannot penalize them for exercising this right.
Accident and Death Notification
Any fatality or serious injury that results from an employee executing their job must be reported by the company’s management to the nearest office of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health within eight hours of the occurrence.
Also, management must inform Cal/OSHA whenever more than three workers are hospitalized because of a work-related matter and maintain proper records of all injuries, illnesses, and deaths that have happened at their workplace.
Access to Occupational Injury and Illness Records
Employees are entitled to copies of corporate documents that detail any illnesses or injuries they suffered due to their work. Many industries require that their employer produce the copies within two business days.
California OSHA Heat Regulations
California was the first U.S. state to enact regulations that protect outdoor workers from heat disease.
According to the Cal/OSHA standards, an organization with outdoor staff is obligated to provide them with adequate water, regular cool-down breaks, and well-ventilated shades.
They must also teach supervisors and workers how to spot heat illness, administer basic first aid to stop the illness from getting worse, and ensure that workers exhibiting symptoms of heat illness are not left alone.
Employers must periodically inspect, maintain, and carry out safety protocols on their machinery to ensure it functions properly and remains safe for their employees to use.
Hazard Materials and Conditions
Cal/OSHA laws compel employers to fix hazardous conditions on their company property that they know could cause injuries to workers immediately after they become aware of them.
They must also instruct staff members on the safety precautions to take if they often come into contact with dangerous substances like flammable liquids, corrosive substances, carcinogens and more while at work.
You can learn more about the California OSHA regulations that apply to your workplace on the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health website here.
What Are the Legal Implications of Non-Compliance With California OSHA Regulations?
Cal/OSHA inspects work environments when they’re notified of an injury or death and if an employee or their representative files a complaint about unsafe work conditions at a company.
They also frequently conduct checks at companies flagged for having a higher accident rate than others in their field and workplaces in “high hazard” industries.
The following are possible repercussions if an employer is found to violate Cal/OSHA regulations after an inspection:
Being fined is one of the main legal consequences of breaking California OSHA regulations.
Depending on the gravity of the breach, size of the company, prior history of violations, and other criteria, the amount of penalties paid can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars per violation.
For instance, a civil penalty of at least $500 and up to $15,375 may be imposed for a general violation of Cal/OSHA regulations.
A minimum fine of $18,000 and a maximum of $25,000 can be assessed for each serious infraction, which is one that may result in serious bodily harm or death. Additionally, willful violations may result in penalties of up to $153,744 and no less than $10,981.
Employers may also be ordered by Cal/OSHA to abate or remedy violations of its rules. Companies that fail to correct breaches within the stipulated time may be subject to a daily extra fine of up to $15,000.
These penalties, particularly for small enterprises, can dramatically impact their bottom line.
Lawsuits From Injured Workers
Personal injury claims are filed when a person is injured and they believe that someone else is legally liable for their suffering because of negligence, carelessness, or willful actions.
Employees who are hurt or become ill due to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions can bring personal injury lawsuits against their employers seeking damages — including medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
They would have solid proof to support their lawsuit if their company was found to have broken Cal/OSHA regulations.
Personal injury cases can result in expensive court battles and settlements worth millions of dollars.
Cal/OSHA can refer cases of workplace deaths to the California district attorney’s office.
After reviewing a case, a district attorney decides whether there is sufficient proof of workplace safety violations to charge a business owner or senior management with manslaughter, reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide, or other felonies.
A criminal conviction can have grave consequences for the accused, including lengthy prison terms and hefty fines.
Beyond the legal implications, employers who disregard Cal/OSHA regulations might also face many other adverse outcomes, like increased workers’ compensation costs, damage to their reputation, and difficulty recruiting and retaining employees because of their poor workplace safety record.
Gallagher Krich, APC: Experienced California Employment Attorneys
To avoid legal issues that could potentially cost your business thousands of dollars in fines and damages or lead to its closure, you should build a culture of safety in your workplace that protects employees from harm by adhering to all Cal/OSHA regulations applicable to your organization.
If you need help with that, the highly qualified employment attorneys at Gallagher Krich, APC would be happy to offer you legal advice that will not only assist your company in complying with Cal/OSHA standards but also other California business laws, lowering the likelihood that you’ll end up in legal trouble.
Also, if you’re currently dealing with a legal dispute due to Cal/OSHA non-compliance, we can represent you in mediation hearings or court, where we will use our combined 30+ years of business law experience to try to get you a favorable legal outcome.
To arrange a free consultation to discuss how we can work together to ensure you adhere to all necessary California OSHA regulations, call us now at (858) 926-5797 or fill out our online contact form.