September 2021 California EHS News

By August 30, 2021 No Comments

COVID outbreaks doubled in California workplaces in July

The number of workplace coronavirus outbreaks in California more than doubled between June and July, according to state data.

The data, which was shared with a panel exploring how to revise the state’s COVID-19 workplace safety standard, showed that the number of worksite outbreaks in July was the highest since April. Outbreaks are defined as three or more cases at a working area testing positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period.

With the more transmissible delta variant now the dominant strain in California, as well as the state lifting some of its workplace COVID restrictions, the increase in the number of outbreaks was expected.

Major changes to the state’s COVID workplace rule are unlikely until at least the end of the fall, according to staff from the standards board of the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, commonly called Cal-OSHA.

California had 459 workplace outbreaks in July, according to the data from the California Department of Public Health. The July number is far below 2,467 workplace outbreaks reported in California in January. But it’s still the highest since April when 490 outbreaks were reported.

California’s workplace safety as updated in June doesn’t require fully vaccinated people to wear masks or practice social distancing at workplaces and allows people to self-attest their vaccination status.

Many counties have brought back the requirement for people to wear masks indoors, which supersedes Cal-OSHA’s rule, but such mandate is not yet statewide.

House passes budget bills that include OSHA, MSHA and NIOSH funding

The House passed a package of seven appropriations bills in July, including one that would give budget increases to worker safety agencies.

H.R. 4502 allocates $691.8 million to OSHA for fiscal year 2022, which begins Oct. 1. That total is $27.2 million more than what the Biden administration proposed in its first budget request, issued May 28.

Included in that figure is a nearly $45 million increase to OSHA’s enforcement budget, according to a House Appropriations Committee report released July 14. The bill also features an almost $16 million increase in compliance assistance over FY 2021, a nearly $11 million increase in whistleblower enforcement and an approximate $10.5 million increase in the safety standards budget.

The Appropriations Committee’s report addresses OSHA’s “significant reduction” in compliance safety and health officers. “The committee is strongly supportive of OSHA’s plans to use additional resources to support and rebuild OSHA’s enforcement program by hiring additional CSHOs.”

The committee also urges OSHA to adopt policies that encourage the use of full penalties or a penalty multiplier for serious violations in large businesses,” according to the report.

The committee directs Walsh to provide an update on the steps OSHA will be taking on an occupational heat stress standard and recommends the agency update its noise standard for the first time since 1983.

The House budget bill also includes a nearly $22 million increase in the enforcement budget for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Overall, the bill allocates $404.8 million for MSHA. That’s less than the administration’s request of $447.2 million but more than the $379.8 million it received from Congress in FY 2021.

The bill allocates $360.3 million for NIOSH. That’s more than the administration’s request of $345.3 million, which was NIOSH’s budget for FY 2021.

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