State programs

Low staffing, funding levels at Cal/OSHA politically driven, insider report says

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Photo: Department of Industrial Relations

Washington – The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is severely understaffed, has weakened worker protections and is resource-starved, according to a new report from Garrett Brown, a 20-year veteran of the agency.

At issue, the report states, is about $20 million in Cal/OSHA funding that has sat idle instead of being used for hiring additional inspectors. In a phone conversation with Safety+Health, Brown said the money – which comes from a fund specifically earmarked for Cal/OSHA – has not been allocated due to the California governor’s administration’s small government approach. This approach results in weaker protections for California workers, said Brown, who recently retired as the special assistant to the Cal/OSHA chief.

However, according to Greg Edwards, chief financial officer at the California Department of Industrial Relations (which oversees Cal/OSHA), that fund is not a surplus and is used to support the agency when Cal/OSHA is waiting for funding to come in from employer assessment fees. In light of Brown’s report, the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a complaint with federal OSHA alleging the state agency is failing to meet federal benchmarks. Brown is not associated with PEER.

DIR Director Christine Baker told S+H that Brown’s allegations were “not well-founded,” and regarding PEER’s complaint said, “I feel comfortable that we are taking all the steps necessary to improve Cal/OSHA.”