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Does CAL OSHA Supersede Federal OSHA? What Power Does CAL OSHA Have?

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What is CAL OSHA?

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CAL OSHA is officially known as the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) of California. Following the establishment of OSHA in 1970, California established the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973. It is the largest state plan in the United States and works to address specific aspects of worker health and safety in the state of California.

CAL OSHA is not part of OSHA but is actually part of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), a California-specific organization that improves the health and safety of employees across the state. They are responsible for implementing and enforcing CAL OSHA’s standards and policies.

There are many differences both small and large between the two, but to put it simply, CAL OSHA has stricter standards than those of OSHA. These standards have been established to address the different working conditions and industries in California. As a state plan, CAL OSHA standards have been approved by federal OSHA.

View CAL OSHA Compliant Safety Courses

What Is the Difference Between OSHA and CAL OSHA?

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For you to understand the differences between CAL OSHA and federal OSHA, it is important first to understand how they are similar. Both CAL OSHA and federal OSHA exist to uphold the rights and safety of workers in the workplace. Both organizations implement standards that dictate how workers do their job, the amount of training they are required to have, and what employers need to do to maintain a safe workplace.

The main difference between the two is that CAL OSHA is a state plan and federal OSHA is a federal plan, which works as the standard for all states across the nation. There are many small differences though that range from policies required for every workplace, to training required for every employee. These differences between CAL OSHA and federal OSHA are too extensive to list here in their entirety.

Federal OSHA Plans and State Plans

OSHA allows states to create their own plan for standards and regulations concerning safety. There are 22 of all 50 states that are covered by their own state plan for private sector, state, and local government employees. OSHA standards act as the bare minimum safety standards, meaning state plans can be stricter than OSHA standards, but never less strict than them.

  • Federal Plan refers to the baseline standards and regulations established by federal OSHA for employees and workplaces in all industries and sectors, both public and private. If there is no state plan, then the state simply follows the federal plan. In this case, OSHA provides coverage and jurisdiction across all industries.
  • State Plans refer to the standards and regulations based on those of federal OSHA or the federal plan but that have been modified. OSHA allows states to create additional requirements, training, or procedures for employees if they feel the need to within their state. State plans cannot remove or select OSHA standards. They can only add to them, increase the fines and penalties associated with breaking them and create their own system for review and appeals of citations.

State plans are beneficial for many reasons, but primarily because they can be fitted to the needs of the state. The state knows what its own needs are, and a state plan allows them to take charge and address those needs more easily.

CAL OSHA Specific Standards

CAL OSHA has some specific standards to remember that are different from federal OSHA standards. CAL OSHA puts significant emphasis on industries such as aerial passenger tramways, amusement rides, and pressure vessels in addition to other things. These include but are not limited to:

  • The Injury and Illness Prevention Standard is a particular, methodical strategy California uses to identify and address workplace dangers that is different from what federal OSHA does. It resembles a Safety Management System (SMS), which OSHA recommends, but which CAL/OSHA mandates in the form of a documented Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).
  • When two or more employees suffer from repetitive motion injuries at their place of employment, the Ergonomic Standard – California requires an employer to put in place a Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI) Prevention Program.
  • Regulations for Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) - These regulations mandate that healthcare professionals take extra precautions to guarantee the containment of illnesses. Employers working in healthcare and dentistry facilities must develop an ATD Exposure Control Plan.
  • California demands extra information for choosing and assessing procedures for sharp needles in relation to bloodborne pathogen requirements. Sharps Injury Report Information The sharps injury report itself must also include this information.
  • Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs): OSHA stopped using this approach, which had been in place since 1970, although California kept using it. California monitors these thresholds for allowable chemical exposure levels at work.

There are more standards like these that are required by CAL OSHA, and if you are working in California, you will need to be familiar with those that apply to your workplace specifically.

CAL OSHA Training Requirements

California does mandate additional training beyond OSHA’s regulatory training. The state plan requirements have more rigorous standards for industries such as the California construction workforce regarding topics like fall protection and confined spaces. Most of these trainings specifically train you to identify, avoid, and correct workplace hazards.

The specific training CAL OSHA requires you to take will vary based on the workplace. Most workplaces under California state jurisdiction will require you to take a CAL OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour training course. Certain occupations or operations within each industry will also require specific training to CAL OSHA standards.

Here at Hard Hat Training, we provide a variety of CAL OSHA training courses that are compliant with all current CAL OSHA standards. Our training courses will provide you with accurate and thorough information regarding these standards and prepare employees to perform their jobs safely.

Why Does California Have its Own Standards?

A state plan has advantages above the federal OSHA regulations alone, as was already noted. Due to its high workforce density as well as its distinctive workplaces and industries, California decided to establish a state plan. There are rules for several of these distinctive jobs and sectors that provide additional safety precautions for:

  • Riding in elevators
  • Prevention of spreading COVID-19
  • Aerial transportation, such as tramways and ski lifts
  • Pressure vessel units such as boilers and vents
  • Amusement park rides such as rollercoasters

It is not required to have tighter criteria in every state, but it was decided that it was necessary in California. Since California needs to be more receptive and cognizant of local requirements, it also has its own criteria. Additionally, there are more workers in the public sector in California, which federal OSHA does not usually cover. These personnel are covered by the state plan, which also provides them with additional security.

Does CAL OSHA Supercede Federal OSHA?

State plans, such as Cal/OSHA, function as primary jurisdiction over all workplaces within the state, provided federal OSHA has authorized them. As a result, Cal/OSHA takes precedence over federal OSHA in regulating health and safety procedures at all Californian businesses. In California, the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) is responsible for overseeing and enforcing the state plan. This indicates that Cal/OSHA is accountable for:

  • Investigations of complaints and accidents made by workers or law enforcement
  • Inspections, routine and upon requests from both staff members and police enforcement
  • Permits, certificates, registrations, licenses, and other documentation are required for using certain machinery and doing large construction tasks
  • Orders Prohibiting Use (OPUs) due to prospective or current risks
  • After looking at workplace dangers, issuing citations and directing people to take specific measures
  • Investigation of private and state government workplace retaliation cases
  • Providing outreach, education, and assistance programs
  • Updating and/or changing their standards and regulations as needed

Basically, CAL OSHA does everything that federal OSHA usually does under a federal plan. For example, instead of federal OSHA conducting inspections, CAL OSHA has its own inspectors to conduct workplace inspections. They also will then take appropriate action against those who violate their standards. They are permitted to do so in accordance with their own standards that have been approved by federal OSHA.

However, federal OSHA retains the rights to these responsibilities for certain workplaces within the state of California. Federal OSHA continues to monitor the state plan even though they are not the ones enforcing it. They assess state plans annually through the Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation (FAME) process to determine whether or not the state plan is as effective as OSHA at the minimum.

What Industries Are Under Federal OSHA’s Jurisdiction?

Regardless of CAL OSHA’s jurisdiction as the primary organization for worker safety and health, federal OSHA retains jurisdiction for some industries. These industries include:

  • Government of the United States personnel.
  • Employers in the U.S. military's private sector at all military stations.
  • Contractors and employees of the United States Postal Service (USPS) in USPS facilities.
  • Maritime employment in American navigable seas, excluding maritime construction.
  • Private sector employees within the borders of U.S. national recreation areas such as national parks, monuments, memorials, etc.
  • Private sector and tribal employers within government recognized Native American reservations
  • Aircraft cabin crew members onboard aircraft in operation

Federal OSHA assumes responsibility for the investigation, enforcement, and management of workers' rights and safety standards of these industries, regardless of location across the U.S. Federal Employees or anyone who works for these industries should refer to sources of OSHA directly for filing complaints and information regarding their rights.

Why Does OSHA Allow State Plans to Have Full Jurisdiction?

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OSHA doesn’t just allow states to have a state plan, but actively encourages it. States that develop and preside over their own safety and health program can work independently. Having full jurisdiction over all workplaces in the state allows the state to be more effective when addressing workers’ rights and conditions. OSHA does not give up responsibility entirely and continues to monitor the state plans and even provides funding for most of their programs.

Also, because state plans are required to follow OSHA standards as the bare minimum, federal OSHA has no problem allowing the state to have full jurisdiction. At that point, OSHA only needs to ensure that the bare minimum is being upheld by the state plan and no longer needs to run all the regulatory affairs.

If state plans did not have full jurisdiction, it would also be harder for them to enforce their specific standards. They are responsible for updating and refining those standards, and without full jurisdiction, the process would be slow and worker safety would be compromised until resolved.

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