Worksafe's February Newsletter: new standard, new laws, new team members
Worksafe's February Newsletter: new standard, new laws, new team members

February Newsletter

New Lead Standard Passed Today

Worksafe is pleased to announce that a new Lead Standard was successfully passed at today's Standards Board meeting! 

The new standard is the result of years of work and seeks to ensure that employees’ blood lead levels stay below ten micrograms per deciliter. In 2019, the legislature mandated that Cal/OSHA update the 40 year old Lead Standard by September 30 2020. This was delayed by the COVID pandemic; a proposal was heard on April 20, 2023. Two notices of proposed modifications have been issued.

Workers exposed to lead suffer from a variety of harmful effects, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, nervous system and neurobehavioral effects, and impaired kidney function. Lead can also be carried home from occupational exposure, creating learning and behavioral issues in children, who are particularly sensitive.

Employers and industry lobbyists launched a volley of complaints about Cal/OSHA’s proposal, calling it unscientific government overreach and orchestrating as much delay and confusion as possible.

Worksafe and partner community organizations, in turn, launched a campaign to combat these obfuscations, rallying advocates and experts to make public comment, submitting a sign-on letter to the board endorsed by over ten community based organizations, worker groups and unions. Thank you to all who turned out in support!

Welcome Amira-Sade Moodie!

Please join us in welcoming our new Program Assistant, Amira-Sade Moodie to Worksafe!

What sparked your interest in worker health and safety?

AMS: I worked a labor intensive job during the early stages of COVID and during wildfire season. In addition, I incurred a workplace injury after tripping over something on the job and breaking my foot. I felt very under-resourced and unprepared as I navigated all of this. This led me to becoming very interested in worker health & safety.

What attracted you to Worksafe in particular? 

AMS: When I came across the job posting, I felt struck by the care and transparency in the language of the job description and the work that Worksafe does. I thought "Oh, I can tell humans work here." and when I had my interview with Jora, Chief of Staff & Equity, I immediately felt a kinship and knew this was an organization I wanted to be a part of. 

What do you do for fun? 

AMS: I have a background in visual art, so I spend a lot of time painting, screenwriting, photographing, getting out into nature and discovering the beauty in mundane moments, and then translating my findings into some form of creative expression. I also watch A LOT of movies in my downtime. 

Introducing Worker Leader Leonard Brown! 

Worksafe is proud to support a worker leader for our Black Worker Initiative, Leonard Brown. Leonard has joined other worker leaders in National COSH's  "We Rise Leadership Academy" and is embarking on a journey of worker advocacy.  Leonard shares: “I am 59 years of age and I enjoy writing, sharing space and time with friends and family on my off days, and I truly like traveling and meeting new cultures and sampling different cuisines.” Leonard's current employment entails cleaning, hospitality and safety. His work can be very rewarding and emotionally challenging at times due to the level of human suffering that he might encounter on a daily basis. "At first it was difficult to engage unhoused individuals and I often found myself looking away at so many either caught up in addiction or suffering from a mental disorder, but slowly I began to see and honor their humanity because everyone is deserving of love and respect."

New Labor Laws In Effect as of 2024

SB 497 - the Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Act

When workers take steps to address workplace abuses such as safety or wage violations, it is all too common for their employers to fire them, reduce their hours, or retaliate in other ways. This new law ensures that employers, not workers, bear the burden of proof that such actions were not, in fact, retaliatory when they occur within 90 days of a protected action.

SB 544 - Modernize Bagley Keene Act
The Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act was passed to keep the public informed on the proceedings of public agencies. SB 544 helps update it for the digital era by requiring the following three things: 1) that boards and commissions have a quorum present in public at one location; 2) that remote public officials keep their camera on; and 3) that there are remote testimony options for public hearings.

SB 553 - Preventing Workplace Violence

Senator Cortese shared in his press release that he was prompted to action by a tragic mass shooting at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Cal/OSHA has been working on a general workplace violence (WPV) standard for six years, so Senator Cortese, UFCW, and AFSCME collaborated on SB 553 to accelerate the process.

SB 553 requires employers to develop their own WPV plan as part of the mandatory Cal/OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Plans. The standard will take effect on July 1, 2024.

SB 616 - Paid Sick Leave

As of January 1, 2024, California workers will have the right to accrue and use up to 5 days or 40 hours of Paid Sick and Safe Leave (“Paid Sick Leave”). Previously, California law required only 3 paid sick days.

Check out Legal Aid at Work’s great factsheet on how you can utilize this benefit.

AB 496 - Support Clean Cosmetics

AB 496 bans the sale of cosmetic products that contain 26 toxic chemicals known to have an effect on human health. The chemicals include some borate compounds, lily aldehyde, cyclotetrasiloxane, trichloroacetic acid, styrene and certain colors. 

AB 636 - H2A Notices

This bill requires H-2A growers whose H-2A farm workers are not unionized to provide them with a state Labor Commissioner-drafted Spanish language notice which describes, in easily understandable terms, approximately two dozen important California/federal labor rights & protections.

AB 933 - Protecting Survivors From Weaponized Defamation Lawsuits

AB 933, effective as of January 1, 2024, better shields survivors of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination from the weaponized use of defamation claims, as even meritless suits have proven effective at intimidating survivors into silence.  

AB 1228 - Fast Food Liability

AB 1228 created a fast food council with the authority to increase the industry minimum wage and adjust for region in California, increasing it to $20/hour starting in 2024, and allowing for additional increases at annual intervals. 

AB 1484 - Public Sector Temp Worker Protection Bill

AB 1484 takes effect January 1, 2024 and intends to ensure temporary workers are protected by state laws, supported in their bargaining rights, and able to be included in the same bargaining unit as permanent employees who perform similar work.

Upcoming Standard Vote

Indoor Heat Standard

The Cal/OSHA Standards Board will weigh in on the indoor heat standard on 3/21. Workers and advocates who are able to attend or call in are highly encouraged to do so. This one will take place in San Diego: 

March 21, 2024 10:00 a.m.
In-Person and via Teleconference

County Administration Center
Room 310
1600 Pacific Highway
San Diego, CA 92101
CORRECTION: A reporter looking into heat related fatalities contacted Worksafe after they were unable to confirm the death of Cecilia Tapia Alaniz, which was reported in our 2019 Dying at Work report based on data provided to us. We regret the error.
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