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Report cites need for more Cal OSHA inspectors

In recent news, Worksafe - an Oakland-based non-profit dedicated to promoting worker safety - recently released a rather eye-opening report on the number of serious work injuries and fatalities in the state of California.

According to the report, entitled "Dying at Work in California," the number of workplace fatalities actually declined in 2009 (the most current year for which full statistics are available). However, the number of workplace fatalities involving Latino workers rose dramatically.

Specifically, the report found the following:

  • Overall workplace fatalities declined roughly 35 percent from 2008 to 2009, falling from 465 to 301 (the authors attribute much of this decline to high unemployment rates)
  • 42 percent of all California workers killed on the job were Latino

According to Gail Bateson, executive director of Worksafe, there are three reasons why the fatality rate among Latino workers is so disproportionately high:

  • Latino workers are sometimes hesitant to report safety violations/unsafe conditions over fear of retaliation by employers
  • The state of California does not employ many bilingual inspectors
  • State regulators often fail to perform timely investigations and/or file reports concerning discrimination/retaliation by employers

"A lot of it comes down to having no representation," said Bateson of the problems faced by Latino workers.

In order to address this problem and the still high levels of work injuries/fatalities, Worksafe is recommending that Governor Jerry Brown lift the statewide hiring freeze in order to hire more California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal OSHA) inspectors.

"There is proof that since the OSHA has been around, it has saved 410,000 lives, with 50,000 in our ... share (for California)," said Bateson in reference to a recent AFL-CIO report. "That's an important public safety function."

The Worksafe report indicates the funding for the extra Cal OSHA inspectors could come from work comp assessments and fees, and that if the state agency was classified as a public safety agency, the freeze would be inapplicable.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

Nonprofit calls for more workplace safety inspectors (California Watch)

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