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SB 606 – Expands Cal/OSHA’s Power To Enforce And Penalize Enterprise-Wide Or Egregious Violations
Under existing law, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has a statutory duty to (1) promulgate workplace safety standards that employers in California must adhere to; and (2) respond to worker complaints and investigate worksites where there is evidence of safety standard violations, and, if necessary, penalize employers who fail to meet standards. Senate Bill 606 (SB 606) was enacted to mirror federal OSHA regulations that allow for heightened penalties for “egregious” safety violations at the state level.
SB 606 creates a rebuttable presumption that a Cal/OSHA violation committed by an employer that has multiple worksites is enterprise-wide if the employer has a written policy or procedure that violates Cal/OSHA rules and regulations, in most circumstances, or Cal/OSHA has evidence of a pattern or practice of the same violation committed by that employer involving multiple worksites. The bill also authorizes Cal/OSHA to issue an enterprise-wide citation requiring enterprise-wide abatement if the employer fails to rebut this presumption, and increases the penalties for enterprise-wide violations to the same level as willful or repeated violations.
SB 606 also defines certain categories of “egregious” violations where Cal/OSHA will be required to issue a citation, rather than just a non-compliance notice. A violation is defined as egregious if any of the following are true:
- The employer intentionally, through conscious and voluntary action or inaction, made no reasonable effort to eliminate a known violation.
- The violations resulted in worker fatalities, a worksite “catastrophe” resulting in hospitalization of three or more employees, or a large number of illnesses or injuries.
- The violations resulted in persistently high rates of worker injuries or illnesses.
- The employer has an extensive history of prior violations of this part.
- The employer has intentionally disregarded their health and safety responsibilities.
- The employer’s conduct as a whole shows bad faith in their duties to maintain a safe workplace.
- The employer has committed a large number of violations, which undermines significantly the effectiveness of any safety and health program that may be in place.
SB 606 requires Cal/OSHA to treat each instance of an employee exposure to an egregious violation to be considered a separate violation, allowing Cal/OSHA to stack cumulative penalties for widespread or ongoing safety violations.
SB 606 also expands Cal/OSHA’s investigatory powers, authorizing Cal/OSHA to issue an investigative subpoena if an employer fails to promptly provide requested information, and to enforce the subpoena if the employer fails to comply within a reasonable period.
(SB 606 amends Sections 6317, 6323, 6324, 6429, and 6602 of, and adds Sections 6317.8 and 6317.9 to, the Labor Code.)