Most California employers, and if you’re reading this blog then chances are you’re one of them, don’t need any additional prodding to maintain safe and healthful workplaces. But it never hurts to revisit compliance issues that may have slipped to the back of our consciousness.
In 1970 congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA, get it?), section 18 of which provides for states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs which the federal government would then approve, monitor, and provide up to half of an approved plan’s operating costs.
In 1973, in line with the federal statute and to protect California employees from workplace hazards, California passed the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (Cal/OSHA, get it?). California is one of 22 states that operates a comprehensive plan that covers both private and public sector employees. Of benefit to small businesses, Cal/OSHA operates a Consultation Service that is offered at no cost to employers. The consultation is entirely separate from Cal/OSHA’s compliance unit.
Now that you we’ve covered a little labor law history and ways your California based company can avail itself of free compliance assistance let’s discuss an update to Cal/OSHA’s Safety and Health Protection on the Job Poster that may have receded into out distant memory. The change is old and small but the consequences, as an employer, of not understanding and complying with regulations are serious enough to keep top of mind.
In 2014, under the heading “Special Rules Apply for Work Around Hazardous Substances” the new text is as follows (I’ve included the old text italicized and in parentheses):
Employers who use any substance that is listed as a hazardous substance in California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 339 (www.dir.ca.gov/title8/339.html), or is covered by the Hazard Communication Standard (www.dir.ca.gov/title8/5194.html) must provide employees information on the hazardous chemicals in their work areas access to the safety data sheets (material safety data sheets), and training on how to use hazardous chemicals safely.
This mandatory update to Cal/OSHA’s Safety and Health Protection on the Job Poster, can be found on the latest Cal/OSHA mandatory posting (October 2017), is small but it markedly improves the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace. The Safety Data Sheets (SDS) is aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. An international team of hazard communication experts has developed the GHS and its goal is that the same set of rules for classifying hazards, and the same format and content for labels and safety data sheets (SDS) will be adopted and used around the world. You can find out more about the GHS here.
This poster, along with all the other required posters and notices, are available from California’s Department of Industrial Relations. The law requires that this poster be displayed. Failure to do so could result in a substantial penalty. Cal/OSHA standards can be found at www.dir.ca.gov/samples/search/query.htm