Stringent, Discretionary Enforcement of CalOSHA Safety Standards

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Regulation

Farmers and ranchers are being encouraged to enhance their protocols related to safety standards as California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) steps up its enforcement.  AgSafe President and CEO Amy Wolfe noted that a trend she is seeing in conversations with industry members throughout the state is that CalOSHA is being exceptionally diligent in their investigations of farming operations. Many citations are also being issued which may be completely unrelated to the purpose behind the CalOSHA investigation.

Safety Standards“CalOSHA has been availing themselves of this right much more extensively and in turn issuing as many, if not more, citations for failure to be in compliance with worker safety and health regulations that were unrelated to the incident that they were called in for,” said Wolfe. “If CalOSHA comes to your business to investigate an incident they now have, quite frankly, carte blanche to give you a ‘CalOSHA colonoscopy.’”

There is often an ebb and flow when it comes to the enforcement of safety standards.  There can be periods when latitude and discretion are afforded to investigators when assessing an operation.  Other times investigators are much more rigorous in the documentation of every violation that is observed during an inspection, which appears to be the case now.  A potential cause for the hyper-vigilance of investigations is the change of administration and a lack of a CalOSHA Chief. 

“Without someone leading the organization, to very clearly set the priorities and tone for what enforcement should and will look like, then you see a lot of that authority being taken by local, regional office leadership,” said Wolfe.  “We are hearing of even more stringent behavior in various pockets around the state, as opposed to consistently across the state.”

Wolfe also reminds employers that CalOSHA is well within their legal right and authority to issue citations and penalties when instances of non-compliance are observed.  While the lack of consistency across regions can be a frustrating concern for farmers and ranchers, employers’ energies are best used ensuring their safety standards are above reproach.

Listen to Wolfe’s interview below.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West