Workers Comp Zone


According to a recently released U.S. Department of Labor report, Cal/OSHA is making progress in satisfying federal standards in a number of areas.

That’s according to a recently released “FAME” report, the FY 2015 Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation Report (evaluating the period 10/1/14 to 9/30/15). A link to the actual report is included at the bottom of this post.

Worker safety is a paramount concern for the workers’ comp system. So though this blog is not centered on occupational safety issues, from time to time I like to comment about significant developments there.

I’ve also included a link to the prior FAME report for 2013 to 2014, a report that identified more problems than the most recent FAME report.

Among other things, the 2013-2014 FAME report had noted that an investigation was done after a Complaint About State Administration (CASPA) and on June 26, 2015 the results of the CASPA investigation recommended improvement in four areas (to increase the number of inspections conducted in dangerous workplaces, to establish an achievable follow-up inspection policy, to improve citation lapse times, and to improve complaint response times).

In fairness, it should be pointed out that Cal/OSHA contested those findings on July 24, 2015 and July 30, 2015 in a detailed letters to the federal regional OSHA administrators (I’ve added a link to these two letters at the bottom of this post). Cal/OSHA’s contention was that the June 2015 federal OSHA findings were “either inaccurate or based on an overly narrow interpretations of data retrieved from federal OSHA’s database system.” and that database issues between the state and federal system distorted the figures. And it was noted that in 2013  and 2015 the DIR had succeeded in getting additional funding for various Cal/OSHA units.

The recent FAME report does indicate that Cal/OSHA is making progress. It concludes that :

“In FY 2015 Cal/OSHA improved and strengthened its program by taking corrective action to complete 12 of the 20 findings from the FY 2014 Follow up FAME report”.

The recent FAME also notes that “three findings in FY 2014 were not fully resolved, but Cal/OSHA made enough progress to warrant converting these findings to observations in this FY 2015 FAME report, subject to further monitoring by OSHA’s Regional Office.”

The federal FAME report notes that “It is expected that over the next year or so, as the additional inspectors are hired and trained, this expansion in staffing levels will lead to improvement in a number of enforcement measures, such as complaint response time and citation reponse time”.

Hopefully Cal/OSHA can move toward full staffing of budget-allocated positions. One of the problems facing DIR administrators is that state rules for hiring are more complicated that in the private sector. In a presentation to the August meeting of CHSWC, Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum outlined the various steps that must be done in state hiring: posting of a position, creating of an exam, interviews, ranking exam candidates etc etc. This is a much more time consuming process than the hiring process for most employers. And it’s not only a problem at Cal/OSHA. These procedures make it more complicated to hire court reporters for the WCAB district offices.

Further, the fact that the current California workforce has so many non-English speakers may make it more complicated to attract, hire and retain inspectors who can communicate with the composition of the California workforce.

In any event, there are currently still a number of vacant inspector positions. However, Ms. Sum, a very earnest administrator, has indicated that there are strong efforts being made to fill those slots.

Cal/OSHA has not yet responded to the recent FY 2015 FAME ( I will post Cal/OSHA’s response, which is due by mid-August, when I receive it) but it should be noted that some of the more significant areas of continuing concern for federal OSHA (the so-called “findings”) now involve the following issues:

-a high citation lapse time for safety inspections

-failure to notify complainants of inspection results

-a low average number of willful, repeat or unclassified violations per inspection

-lack of worker representative involvement in opening conferences and lack of worker interviews

-some database documentation issues

If the DWC can successfully fill the funded but vacant staffing slots one would assume that some of these concerns will be resolved.

Meanwhile, it is good to see that the results of this year’s FAME show some progress being made.

Here is the link to the FY 2015 FAME report:

Cal:OSHA FY 2015 FAME report

And here is the prior FAME for FY 2014:

Cal:OSHA FY2014 FAME report

And this is the July 30, 2015 letter from Cal/OSHA contesting some of the findings in the FY 2014 FAME:

Cal-OSHA 7.30.15 Letter

And here is the July 24, 2015 letter from the DIR to federal administrators:

Cal:OSHA FY2014 FAME response(7.24.15)

The 2015 report by Cal/OSHA is here:

Cal:OSHA FY 2015 State Report

Stay tuned.

Julius Young