By: Ruth Evans, Owner, Evans HR Group
AB 2774 is new….and it’s important that you are prepared! Many consider this to be one of the most important pieces of workplace safety and health legislation for many years. AB 2774 significantly amends the approach Cal/OSHA uses in classifying serious violations. Cal/OSHA is now required to follow specific steps to classify a citation as serious. It also gives employers the opportunity to defend against allegations of a serious citation by showing how effective their safety program is. The intent of AB 2774 is to increase workplace safety by clarifying serious violations and ensuring that citations are correct, well evidenced and sustainable; by increasing and improving communication between Cal/OSHA and employers; and by giving employers the opportunity for rebuttal before citations are issued. This new statute became effective January 1, 2011. This legislation focuses on a) realistic possibility (rather than substantial probability) of death or serious injury, b) requires a link between the hazard and violation, and c) expands the definition of serious physical harm.
The employer’s opportunity to defend against allegations of a serious citation before it is issued is key.
Having an effective safety and health program is critical. Every employer is required to have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), so this is a good time to review and update the program to make sure all elements necessary to a) establish that you took reasonable steps to train employees, b) identify/control hazards, c) provide effective supervision of employees exposed to potential hazards and e) effectively communicate your health and safety rules to employees. Equally as important is making sure that your IIPP is truly implemented on a consistent basis.
AB 2774 does promote more communication between the employer and Cal/OSHA up front; however, the “kicker” is that Cal/OSHA’s inspectors’ findings will be given more weight, and employers need to be extra cautious in who responds and how they respond to allegations of serious violations. Cal/OSHA Chief Len Walsh stated, “This new interpretation of a serious violation will help strengthen the Cal/OSHA program, improve enforcement efforts and better protectCalifornia’s workers. It will help us accurately issue serious citations to more effectively address the most egregious violations.”