An explosion of COVID-19 infections at large businesses such as supermarket chains, meat packers, fast food outlets and warehouses has highlighted the weak penalties in California’s worker safety laws. And the Cal / OSHA workplace safety agency, with one inspector for every 103,000 workers, said it was understaffed to visit 80 percent of sites where workers complain of safety violations.
Senate Bill 606, mirroring a similar federal law, allows California inspectors to issue âcompany-wideâ citations to companies with a number of infractions, although they do not have to. not visited every job site in person.
Under previous rules, an employer with multiple outbreaks in the workplace was usually cited for a single violation. Traditionally, Cal / OSHA has preferred to negotiate with employers rather than impose fines. But the weak penalties have not dissuaded companies from breaking the rules, said Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), the author of the bill.
The new law requires the agency to label some employers as “blatant” when, for example, workers are killed or hospitalized as a result of “deliberate” safety violations. The agency must stack citations for each affected worker with fines of up to $ 134,334 each.
âYou had big employers who just ignored public health guidelines on social distancing, masking and other measures,â said Eduardo Martinez, legislative director of the California Labor Federation. âAs a result, a lot of workers got sick and a lot of them died. “
But SB 606 applies to all workplace safety situations, not just those involving the coronavirus.
“We are going through a pandemic, where the majority of our business community is hanging on for life,” said MP Heath Flora (R-Ripon), who opposed the bill. âCOVID has been used to advance an agenda that labor groups have not been able to implement before. “