Author, Alyssa Burley, Client Services Coordinator, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.
Business leaders from across San Diego County gathered on Thursday, January 4, 2018 for the Cal/OSHA: Enforcement vs. Consultation Branches workshop hosted by Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc. at San Diego Christian College.
Carmen Cisneros, Cal/OSHA's Consultation Services Branch Area Manager, delivered an informative presentation covering the differences between Cal/OSHA’s enforcement and consultation branches. She educated the attendees on how to take advantage of Cal/OSHA's free consultation services and provided real-world examples of her experiences in the Enforcement Branch which sparked discussions with the audience.
"Thanks for putting these on, they are valuable tool that you provide to your clients and we appreciate it," said Tyler Rogers, Heritage Landscape Services, Inc.
Mission and Purpose
Carmen began the workshop by describing her experience within Cal/OSHA's Enforcement branch before moving into the Consultation branch. She explained the goal of Cal/OSHA is to keep people safe. Its "mission is to promote, adopt, and maintain reasonable and enforceable standards that will ensure safe and healthful workplace for California workers." She enjoys working within the Consultation Branch where she can help employers be proactive with their approach to safety in the workplace.
During the presentation, Carmen covered various pages on the Cal/OSHA website (www.dir.ca.gov/dosh) and how to navigate through the site. She explained where to find information on how business owners can participate in advisory meetings to assist Cal/OSHA in its regulations.
The presentation included practical information for business owners. For example, Cal/OSHA's Enforcement Branch will respond to accidents, complaints, referrals, and imminent hazards. Carmen included definitions for terms like "catastrophe" (i.e., inpatient hospitalization of three (3) or more employees) and "serious exposure" (i.e., exposure to a hazardous substance sufficient to create a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm in the future could result from the exposure). There was also a discussion on when and how to report an accident. When required, an employer must call to report the accident within 8 hours of knowledge of the event. She also stressed the importance of documentation and recommended tracking the date and time the initial call was made to Cal/OSHA to report an incident.
Citations and Appeals
Carmen discussed the various categories of citations the Enforcement Branch may issue and provided maximum dollar amounts for each:
- Regulatory (up to $7,000)
- General (up to $7,000)
- Serious (up to $25,000)
- Repeat (no adjustment for good faith or history)
- Failure to Abate (maximum penalty up to $15,000)
- Willful (up to $75,000)
She also covered the Appeals Board process, including informal conferences and appeals. The take away from this part of the presentation was that Cal/OSHA is willing to work with an employer who is genuinely taking steps to correct an issue.
The main objective of the workshop was to inform employers that Cal/OSHA offers free consultation services. These are resources that are available to employers to ensure they maintain safe workplaces without the added pressure of citations or fines. The Consultation Branch offers free:
- Onsite visits
- Offsite consultation (telephone support)
- Educational materials
- Educational outreach (workshops)
- Partnership programs
In order for the Consultation Branch to work with an employer, they must be invited and the employer must not have any current citations or penalties
The Catch. While information is not shared with the Enforcement Branch, "serious and imminent hazards identified during a consultation are expected to be corrected in a timely manner." So, when working with the Consultation Branch, an employer is expected to make the recommended changes within the set time frame (i.e., within 30 days, immediately); otherwise, the Enforcement Branch may become involved to prevent a serious accident.
The Cal/OSHA website has an extensive library of educational materials that employers can utilize to ensure their workplace is safe.
Contact Cal/OSHA to schedule a free consultation.