California Workplaces Earn Dubious Recognition

In April of 2012, the AFL-CIO released its annual “Death on the Job” report. This comprehensive document tracks a huge number of key statistics across every state in the union. While you may agree or disagree with the conclusions reached by the paper’s authors, they do present troubling data – especially regarding California workplaces.

This state led the nation in 2011 for the total # of workplace deaths. Cal-OSHA investigated 182 job related fatalities that year. That’s more than double the number in any other state besides Texas. Not surprisingly, California also has the highest dollar amount in penalties at more than 2.58 million dollars for fatality related violations in 2011.

Do State Workers Get the Protection They Need?

Having a higher population isn’t an excuse for these worrying numbers. New York State (which has about 50% as many residents as California) only had 57 workplace deaths to account for in 2011. California actually has one of the best developed state level OSHA programs in the nation, which makes the high number of fatalities seem inexplicable. However, the fact is that resources for on-site inspections and enforcement are still woefully lacking. The AFL-CIO estimates that it would take 156 years for OSHA to visit all the worksites in California based on current staffing levels and rate of inspections.

Interestingly, New York State’s own OSHA program covers only state and local employees. This means they can focus efforts more tightly on protecting public agency workers from harm on the job. In contrast, California’s DIOSH is trying to monitor the health and safety of the entire public and private workforce for the largest state in the US. It’s no wonder workers are falling through the cracks.

Take Action Now

With these statistics in mind, it’s evident that state and local employers must take a proactive role in reducing the likelihood of workplace fatalities for their own employees. When lives are at stake, waiting for a government agency to get more funding to alleviate the problem isn’t a solution. Public agency employers are well acquainted with how long it can take for a bureaucracy to effect change! That’s why state and local employers should be actively looking for ways to increase workplace safety with the help of experienced partners. It’s going to take everyone working together to ensure California doesn’t earn the notorious top spot for workplace fatalities again in 2013.