With the harvest upon us in California wine country, now is a great time to remind wineries and vineyards operating within the Golden Gate of those Cal/OSHA standards most often cited against this industry. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), which is charged with enforcing the state’s workplace safety standards, frequently cites wine industry businesses for failing to comply with several California-unique standards, such as the heat illness prevention rule and chemical right-to-know hazard communication requirements, as well as failing to comply with confined space and respiratory protection standards. We highlight these key Cal/OSHA standards and their impact on the wine industry.
Vineyards Vexed by Heat Illness Prevention Standard
California has adopted a Heat Illness Prevention Standard (§3395), which initially in 2005 was an emergency regulation. DOSH considers enforcement of the heat illness prevention standard to be a “special emphasis” and, as such, during every compliance inspection involving work sites that may be subject to this requirement, Cal/OSHA inspectors are expected to inquire about and evaluate employers’ Heat Illness Prevention Plan. This is an area of particular scrutiny in the wine industry, where vineyard employees frequently work outdoors, often in high heat conditions. Continue reading →
Employers’ perceptions about their legal responsibilities for certain workers is not always reality. Although an employer may classify a worker as a temporary worker or independent contractor, that does not mean the Department of Labor takes the same view. Recently, DOL has been vocal about its belief that most workers should be treated as employees, insinuating that in a majority of cases, it would hold employers accountable for the specific obligations of an employer-employee relationship. Additionally, employers may have certain employment law and OSHA related obligations and potential liability depending on their role at multi-employer worksites or in joint employer situations.
Overall, DOL has been cracking down on employee misclassification and division of responsibility among multiple employers; thus, it is essential for employers to carefully evaluate the employment relationship and their own individual function at in the multi-employer context.
A host of federal and state laws include provisions prohibiting employers from retaliating against whistleblowers who engage in activities protected by the statute. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and several other laws that regulate the relationship between employers and employees, contain such whistleblower protections. Pursuant to these protections, the laws also provide a mechanism through which employees can report incidents of retaliation to the government to investigate and potentially bring an enforcement action against the employer. With the number of whistleblower claims continuing to rise in 2015, it is imperative for employers to understand what types of actions could be the impetus for a whistleblower investigation and the potential consequences.
The OSHA Defense Report is a blog designed to bring you recent developments in workplace safety and health law, but not just to tell you that something has happened, but to talk about why you should care, and how it will affect you and your Company.
We started the OSHA Defense Report because we frequented several useful blogs dedicated to practical day-to-day workplace safety & health issues, but none that dive deep into workplace safety & health legal and regulatory issues. This blog is intended to fill that void.
The OSHA Defense Report will be the place to go to learn about the significance of new OSHA law developments, such as OSHA enforcement trends and initiatives, new interpretations and Review Commission decisions, and relevant OSHA policy and Rulemaking issues. We will offer practical advice with creative solutions with the goal to provide guidance to minimize exposure to costly liability. We hope you visit this site often and provide us with your feedback on what topics you are interested in.