Two hard lessons for employers from a recent Cal/OSHA case

23 Jun

Following a fire at a Los Angeles area acrylic plastics manufacturing plant, Cal/OSHA conducted an inspection and found 3 safety violations, 2 of which should get the attention of every employer in California.
First, even though the company had to deal with a fire and injured workers, and still called the district Cal/OSHA office within 12 hours to notify them of serious burn injuries, this was not good enough to satisfy Cal/OSHA who cited the employer for violating Section 342(a) not “immediately reporting any serious injury or illness or death of an employee occurring in a place of employment.” “Immediately means as soon as practically possible but not longer that 8 hours after the employer know or with diligent inquiry would have known of the death or serious injury or illness. If the employer can demonstrate that exigent circumstances exist, the time frame for the report may be made no longer than 24 hours after the incident.”

In this incident it took the employer 12 hours to make the report because the supervisor encountered chaos when he arrived at the plant! Further, the supervisor sent an employee to the hospital to check on the condition of injured employees. Cal/OSHA said he should have called while he was driving to the plant or as soon as he arrived. Further, since the plant operates 24 hours a day, Cal/OSHA said the supervisor should have delegated the injury reporting to ensure a report was made when he learned of the fire and “the impending injury of employees”. A fine of $2,000 was upheld by the Occupational and Safety Appeals Board.

To add to the burden of the employer, Cal/OSHA next cited for not doing as complete an accident investigation as they wanted, in particular not determining the cause of the accident and findings and corrective action taken. Cal/OSHA did not say the employer did not find out the cause nor did it say no corrective steps were taken, just that the accident report did not contain “any determination as to the cause of the incident, nor did it contain any corrective actions.” “There was no evidence that the employer investigate how the fire was able to travel for the waste storage area to another room in the plant. Employer did not record any findings as to how employees were injured other than being burned. A fine of $1,125 was upheld by the Occupational and Safety Appeals Board for this violation.

Employers – who often struggle just to obtain the information to complete the Employers First Report of Injury for a workers’ compensation claim, now need to know that much more is expected of them, particularly if there are any significant injuries involved in a work place accident.

If you would like a set of documents to help you with steps to take in case of a work injury: An Employers Guide to Workplace Injury Procedures (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid); an Accident, Injury and Illness Investigation Form; a California Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC 1); California Employer’s First Report of Occupational Injury or Illness or a Cal/OSHA District Offices map, please just e-mail me at DonDressler1@hotmail.com

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