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Archive for 'OSHA News'

The Drought is Over for Cal/OSHA

This year’s budget will allow Cal/OSHA to fill 27 previously unfunded positions in Enforcement and Consultation. It also adds a whopping 15 new positions to the Process Safety Management Unit. Read further…

Correction: “Twenty Years of Dilapidation”

In our May 14, 2014 post on changes at the Division we made the mistake of assuming what we read in the San Francisco Chronicle was true: That to beef up Cal/OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) units, the Division had to hire a lot of recent college grads severely inexperienced in life outside academia.

“Twenty Years of Dilapidation”

“Twenty Years of Dilapidation”: That’s how Christine Baker, Director of Industrial Relations bluntly described Cal/OSHA’s current condition to a packed audience at the recent Safety Expo in Elk Grove. She has taken on the task of rehabilitating the Division and early results are encouraging.

To us, Baker’s most encouraging comment was that she is determined to make Cal/OSHA’s teams accountable for their actions. She wants inspectors to treat California’s employers less like criminals and more like clients, to act more like problem solvers and less like meter maids. Cal/OSHA’s energies could be directed toward the underground economy – finally! – using payroll data and inter-agency communications to better identify the state’s bad actors are.

The most visible evidence to date of Baker’s determination to change is the open attitude of Baker’s new Chief of Cal/OSHA, Juliann Sum. In Sum’s talk at Safety Expo she asked as many questions as she answered and was disarmingly frank about admitting what she didn’t know. She actually encouraged dialog and took notes about new information she received. Refreshing!

The obvious take-away is that Cal/OSHA’s new leadership is making an effort to change the culture of the Division, never an easy task. If successful, Cal/OSHA should be better staffed, more even-handed in its approach to employers and even humble where warranted. We applaud the effort, while recognizing the enormity of the challenge.

As to staffing, there are two developments of note. The first is that there will be a delay in promotions to District Manager. It seems that the promotion list created by the former Chief’s staff did not follow the rules and had to be tossed. The process of applying, testing, interviewing and selection now has to start all over.

The second is that in order to increase the staffing levels in the Process Safety Management unit, Cal/OSHA has had to recruit directly from colleges and universities. That means that half of the unit’s inspectors, who are charged with enforcing Title 8 CCR section 5189 – probably Title 8’s most technical regulation – will have absolutely no experience in the complexities of refinery and chemical plant operations. This is not really a new condition, as in recent years we have seen industrial hygienists inspecting logging operations and machine guarding accidents where they had no clue how the regulations applied to what they were looking at.

All in all, we are gladdened by what we are seeing at Cal/OSHA. Time will tell if these changes take root and prove beneficial to workers, employers and Cal/OSHA itself.

Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess Resigns

The California Department of Industrial Relations announced today that Ellen Widess has resigned effective immediately from her position as Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. No specific reason was given for her resignation. Widess, who became Chief in mid-April, 2011, served during a period of great stress.  During her tenure the number […]


Well,  we’ve made our first error of the year. Probably not the last. Our prediction that Dr. Michaels will leave Fed/OSHA was premature. According to several sources, he has signed on to stay to the end of Obama’s term, as has his second-in-command Jordan Barab. There seems, then, no hope for any change in OSHA’s campaign against […]

Happy New Year!

With the San Jose State Spartans reaching the Top 25 for the first time in history and winning their first bowl game in forever, life is good! We hope your year is starting well too! “Most Influential”! 2012 ended on a high note when Fred was named by Cal-OSHA Reporter to its list of the […]