June Newsletter

Heat Safety at Work

Temperatures are rising and workers across the state are suffering under difficult conditions. We appreciate Cal/OSHA’s work to remind employers to protect outdoor workers from heat illness.
Worksafe would like to see more communications that are targeted directly to workers about our rights and employers’ obligations, like this labor caravan in Ventura County including the state Labor Commissioner, Cal/OSHA and MICOP.
And we need to see progress on the long overdue Indoor Heat standard, which has already been the focus of more than five years of work. 

What is Your Employer Required to do to Protect You from COVID? 

Californians have the strongest protections from COVID at work in the country. Put in place by Cal/OSHA and the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, these rules will be in place until the end of 2022.
So what are the main things California workers need to know?
  • There must be a COVID-19 Prevention Program at your workplace. It should be in writing and available. Employees are to be trained on COVID prevention.
  • You and/or your union (if you have one) can bring COVID-19 hazards in the workplace to your employer’s attention to be fixed. The employer needs to evaluate and address how COVID could spread in the workplace, and to stay up to speed on public health advice from the state.
  • When face coverings are required (as of this writing, only in Alameda County), the employer must provide them. Face coverings, improved ventilation, and some other measures in the rule depend on what the state Department of Public Health is recommending for the general public, rather than anything specific to workers.
  • If you or a colleague gets COVID on the job, you are to stay home (be “excluded”) from work. You must be paid and you retain your “earnings, wages, seniority, and all other employee rights and benefits” until you are well and can safely return. (this is called “exclusion pay.”) If your boss claims you weren’t infected at work, the burden is on them to demonstrate that.
If there is a positive COVID case at your place of work, your employer needs to investigate the circumstances and individuals who may be affected, notify them, and offer COVID testing. There are specific protections on shared housing and transportation for farmworkers.
Are you not seeing your employer not doing these things, or do they not care about you and your colleagues’ safety? You can file a complaint with Cal/OSHA. This can lead to an investigation and enforcement, including fixing the problem and levying fines.
The main rule is here if you want to read it yourself, and there’s lots of FAQs and more information here at Cal/OSHA’s page. 
Things get more involved if there are three or more cases at your workplace in two weeks (an “outbreak”), or 20 cases in a month (a “major outbreak”) - including notice, investigation, testing and ventilation.
Keep us posted on what you are seeing. Efforts to establish longer-term protections are ongoing. You can find this article on our blog.

National COSH is 50!

It’s a virtual fundraising event organized by and for our network, National COSH, to celebrate 50 years since the founding of the first COSH group.
Your support for Worksafe is also fueling a broader movement for worker health, safety, and power. You will be amazed to see the organizing happening across the country and what we’re building together.
New Worksafe Board member: Caitlin Vega
Caitlin Vega is the co-founder of Union Made, a union-side policy and lobbying shop. She has spent over 25 years in the Labor Movement, working as an organizer, a union representative and a labor lawyer. Prior to founding Union Made, she spent sixteen years at the California Labor Federation where she served as Legislative Director, specializing in efforts to combat misclassification and the fissured workplace. She now works with international, statewide and local unions in legislative, political and contract campaigns to build worker power. In all her work, she is guided by the memory of her dad who raised her in this movement, taught her to fight and never let her give up hope that a better world is possible.
What interests you about worker health and safety?
The most basic protection owed to workers is to go home safe at the end of the day. This was the driving force that led workers to create the first unions over 100 years ago and remains a core mission.
What do you like about being on the Worksafe board?
This board allows us to think beyond our own specific industries or issues to speak to overarching safety concerns facing all workers and the need to hold companies accountable that don’t prioritize worker health and safety.
What is the most pressing issue facing California workers in 2022?
We need to build power at the worksite. We are seeing a resurgence in union organizing and we need to support all workers in standing up for their rights.
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