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Feds Review California Health & Safety

Each summer OSHA issues an audit called a FAME report, which measures how Cal/OSHA is doing – compared to the state’s own laws and goals and federal OSHA’s benchmarks – to ensure that our state program is “at least at effective as” (ALEA) as the federal program. The 2014 audit, released July 2015, tracks Cal/OSHA’s progress in resolving issues identified in earlier reports. The full report and DIR’s response can be found here.

The report found that Cal/OSHA made progress on about half of the 26 findings and recommendations from the 2013 audit, but 10 of these have been be issued repeatedly over many years, including those covering the DLSE-run program to protect workers from OSH retaliation.

On a positive note, the percentage of “serious” citations as a percent of all citations was up, though still far below the national average, and the quality of retaliation investigations has improved. But, OSHA also noted that:
• the overall number of inspections conducted has declined by over 900 over the last four years (perhaps coinciding with the low number of inspectors on board);
• fatalities in the construction industry increased almost 10%, and deaths among Latinos increased in California while the rest of the nation saw a decline.

Recommendations to Cal/OSHA included:
• improving its targeting of high hazard industries;
• ensuring worker representatives are included in the opening conference and worker interviews are conducted and documented; and,
• taking action to fill vacant positions.

The OSH retaliation unit in DLSE needs to:
• change its website and manual to make clear that workers can file a discrimination complaint by phone in addition to filing a form by fax or email; and,
• make sure complainants are informed of their right to appeal DLSE decisions.

The term “FAME” is an abbreviation for Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation. Some (but not all) of the indicators they use are “SAMMS,” or State Activity Mandated Measures. Cal/OSHA provides monthly progress reports to OSHA on these indicators.