Trump Won. So What?

The early money on who will be the new Secretary of Labor under President Trump is going to three people: Victoria Lipnic, a Republican appointed by President Obama to the EEOC and Asst. Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush; Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s); and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Fed/OSHA’s leader for the last eight years, Dr. David Michaels, announced before the election that he would return to academia at the end of the year. When the dust settles in Washington DC, we can expect that the new Secretary of Labor, whoever he or she is, will not retain Michael’s second in command, Jordan Barab.

With their passing we can also expect that the mandates Michaels and Barab placed on the state–plan states to become Mini-Me’s of Fed/OSHA will pass as well, and that we will return to the “as effective as” standard in place of “exactly the same as.” State-plan states such as California will be free again to serve as laboratories for innovation in safety and health regulation and oversight.

So what does that mean for California employers? Very little probably.

Before Obama Cal/OSHA was proud of being out front in the development of new regulations such as the IIPP, blood-borne pathogens and heat illness regulations, all of which have been copied by other states but still have no counterpart at the federal level.

But where Cal/OSHA once took pride in being in the vanguard of safety and health regulation and adopting alternative means to the same end, chiefs Ellen Widess and Juliann Sum were only too happy to adopt Fed/OSHA’s proposals without question. They never saw one they pushed back on strongly or countered with a different solution. Not silica. Not the demand that our definition of a “repeat” citation be the same as the Feds’. Not even the mandate to reduce the state’s fall threshold from 7 ½ feet to the federal 6, despite data that shows that our fall injury rate is lower than the Feds.

Cal/OSHA will go its own way again. We hope this means a less than wholesale adoption of the new recording rules, and especially the restriction on post-incident drug testing, as well as fall protection. We also hope that it means a return to greater transparency and a willingness to convene advisory committees before announcing a course of action. We can hope.

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