DIR Sponsors 4 New Bills in '96 Session


With the deadline to introduce new legislation for the second year of the 1995-96 legislative session fast approaching, DIR has formally sponsored four new bills that reflect administration priorities of reducing regulatory burdens and redundant bureaucracy, enabling DIR to function more effectively.

AB 3293 (Brewer) makes changes to Cal/OSHA's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) requirements by amending Labor Code Section 6394. Current law mandates a manufacturer of substances listed as hazardous under the Hazardous Substances Information and Training Act to prepare, revise, and provide to purchasers of such a substance the MSDS related to it. MSDS forms usually are collected and stored in binders at the worksite for review by employees.

State but not federal law requires the MSDS preparer to give Cal/OSHA a copy. AB 3293 deletes this requirement, which has little or no value for workplace safety, since there is no penalty for not submitting MSDS forms, and the law outlines no actions that Cal/OSHA must take regarding a submitted MSDS -Cal/OSHA receives then boxes and stores reams of paper.

AB 2600 (Baugh) seeks to eliminate redundant permit requirements. Current law allows employment of physically or mentally handicapped workers at a sub-minimum wage as long as a special permit is obtained from the Industrial Welfare Commission. This requirement is redundant, as individuals are also required to obtain such permits from the federal government. DIR believes one permit should suffice, and there is no need to add to bureaucratic burdens faced by employees, employers, and DIR.

AB 3134 (Firestone) changes the manner in which Cal/OSHA investigates complaints of non-serious hazards, and the timeframe in which the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board reviews petitions for reconsideration.

Cal/OSHA currently must respond to a complaint of an alleged non-serious violation within 14 calendar days. AB 3134 would allow Cal/OSHA, rather than conducting a field investigation, to initially send a notice of correction to an employer within 15 calendar days. If the employer then fails to respond in a timely manner or Cal/OSHA receives an additional complaint that corrective action has not been taken, a formal field investigation would be required. This is how Fed/OSHA investigates complaints of non-serious hazards.

The legislation would enable Cal/OSHA to focus more of its resources on investigating reports of serious violations that pose a greater risk to the safety and health of employees.

The bill would require Cal/OSHA to verify firsthand compliance in 10 percent of the complaints for which it receives a timely employer response. It also would require Cal/OSHA to analyze the effectiveness of this enforcement approach and report to the Legislature by December 31, 1998.

AB 3134 also would extend the time period for the appeals board to review a petition for reconsideration. The board currently has 30 days to decide whether to grant a petition for reconsideration, following a decision by one of the board's administrative law judges. This bill would extend that review period to 45 days.

SB 2153 (Hurtt) amends statutory requirements involving health care organizations (HCOs).

The 1993 workers' compensation reform legislation created HCOs as providers of "managed care" medical treatment to injured workers. The statute was perceived by potential HCOs as overly burdensome. Accordingly, very few HCOs have been certified. SB 2153 seeks to clarify and simplify the program.

The original HCO legislation required that employees be given the option of enrolling in managed care for workers' compensation treatment at the time of employment, and at least annually thereafter. SB 2153 would allow employers to enroll an employee automatically if the employee does not make a decision on enrollment. It would change the time of designation to the point at which managed care enrollment is first offered. The bill also provides that if the employer changes to another managed care provider, an employee may choose to be treated by the prior treating physician or by the new organization.

SB 2153 requires disclosure to employees when an HCO is controlled by or controls the employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier.

The 1993 HCO legislation required some HCOs to be certified by the Commissioner of the Department of Corporations, and that they operate on a "fee-for-service" basis. SB 2153 would repeal the "fee-for-service" requirement and make all HCOs subject to certification by DIR's Division of Workers' Compensation.