Governor Gavin Newsom just put pen to paper and signed into law Senate Bill 606 (SB 606) on Sept. 27, 2021, giving the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) new enforcement powers when it comes to workplace safety.
For employees — especially those working in dangerous industries — this is good news. This is a wake-up call for employers who have been inclined to ignore safety violations and push employees past their limits.
SB 606 creates two new categories of violations
Among other provisions, SB 606 makes it possible for Cal/OSHA to slap employers with two new categories of safety violations that are now subject to the same penalties as violations that are considered “repeated” or “willful.” The new violation categories are:
- Enterprise-wide violations: The law now presumes that employers found in violation of Section 25910 of the Health and Safety Code at one worksite (either via written policies or through actual procedures) are in violation at all worksites. CAL/OSHA investigators will not be required to actually observe violations at multiple sites to make the presumption that a bad practice is enterprise-wide.
- Egregious violations: These essentially involve employers with histories of known safety violations that have caused serious injuries or deaths or where the employer has consciously failed to take reasonable remedial efforts to fix the problem. Under SB 606, employers like these would be given separate fines and penalties for each employee that’s exposed to the violations.
SB 606 also gives Cal/OSHA new subpoena power so that employers cannot stagger an investigation by refusing to provide any requested information within a reasonable time.
The fact that California is clamping down on safety issues in the workplace tells you one thing: Worker safety still isn’t as much of a priority as it should be for many employers. If you’ve been seriously injured in a workplace accident or your loved one was killed, find out more about your legal rights.