New California work safety laws take effect

Monday begins the first work week of 2011. There are new workplace safety laws in place for the new year.

A revision of California’s labor code makes it easier for Cal/OSHA, the state's worker safety agency, to investigate serious violations of workplace safety.

Susan Kemp is a labor law attorney for the California Chamber of Commerce. Every year, the Chamber compiles a list of new laws that employers need to know.

She says the boost to Cal/OSHA’s enforcement powers applies mainly to businesses that own and operate heavy equipment. “Any type of machinery that involves anything that can pinch you, push you, cut you, smush body parts, anything with the height that you can fall, tunneling, people in ditches where there’s a cave-in, those kinds of things,” Kemp said.

Cal/OSHA will enforce a new safety standard this year to prevent farm workers from getting sick from the heat. Farm and orchard managers now have to provide each worker with a quart of water an hour – and five minutes of rest in the shade if the employee asks for it.

Susan Kemp with the California Chamber of Commerce says the new law also requires employers to train managers on how enforce the new regulation. Kemp explains, “The employer has to monitor the weather and make arrangements in advance, and supervisors and managers have to be trained to do that as well.”

California’s new heat illness prevention standards actually took effect in November – but Cal/OSHA won’t have any reason to enforce them until the weather heats up this summer.

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