DIR Offices Affected by Quake
Governor Suspends Overtime After 8 Hours

When the earth shook and freeways and structures fell early on the morning of January 17, the Department of Industrial Relations also suffered some temporary disruption of service but has resumed normal operations.

DIR offices at the state building in Van Nuys were most affected. This building houses offices of the Divisions of Workers' Compensation, Labor Standards Enforcement, and Occupational Safety and Health. These offices remained closed for several days. Other offices in the Los Angeles Basin sustained some nonstructural damage and other problems ranging from water leaks to spilled files. Hearings and conferences were canceled for several days at some offices while staff reorganized, but all offices resumed normal operations within a few days.

With several main freeways disabled by quake damage, the commute in Southern California will not normalize for some time. Director Aubry traveled to Los Angeles and appeared on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Recovery Channel to urge employers to use flexible work hours to alleviate the commute situation. He also visited the site of the Santa Monica Freeway to view progress on freeway reconstruction.

To assist employers in scheduling flexible work hours, Governor Pete Wilson exercised his emergency authority and suspended California's daily overtime requirement. California is one of only five states with a daily overtime requirement. Executive Order W-75-94 applies to employers in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties.

"Although the earthquake was centered in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the Executive Order applies to the entire region in recognition that Southern California is so mobile," Aubry explained. "The commute is regional and many people commute between counties to work who will be affected by the traffic situation whether or not they live in Los Angeles or Ventura counties."

The Governor's Executive Order frees employees to work longer hours but fewer days a week; for instance, 10 hours per day for only four days a week rather than eight hours per day and five days a week-and sparing one day of commuting. The Executive Order does not affect the federal weekly overtime requirement. Any hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week remain subject to overtime pay.

The Executive Order was effective January 17. It applies to private places of employment in the affected counties but not to government entities or work situations where there are collective bargaining agreements in effect. The Executive Order will remain in effect until further Executive Order or the reopening of all freeways in Los Angeles and Ventura counties damaged by the earthquake.

Governor Wilson directed all state agencies to do their part in assisting in recovery, and Cal/OSHA mobilized its efforts to facilitate quick rebuilding. Much of the demolition and rebuilding work on damaged freeways requires permits and safety inspections from Cal/OSHA. To speed along this work, Cal/OSHA has stationed safety engineers in some CalTrans offices so that work proceeds safely and quickly. CalTrans, rather than performing actual demolition and construction work, lets contracts in most cases. When possible, Cal/OSHA is issuing permits in the field rather than requiring company representatives to come to its offices.

In Los Angeles, the city has responsibility for inspecting elevators. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health's Elevator Unit has been assisting the city so that elevators are returned to service quickly.

Following the quake, Cal/OSHA also inspected all tower cranes for safety. In one instance, a tower crane collapsed during the quake. No one was injured.

In addition, the Cal/OSHA Consultation Service has been providing information and technical assistance to contractors and other employers on safety matters. In the case of building demolition or reconstruction, Cal/OSHA has advised as to safe procedures for asbestos handling and removal.

In the Los Angeles area, Cal/OSHA's Consultation Service may be reached at (310) 944-9366. Its local office is located at 10350 Heritage Park Dr.- Suite 201, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670. Further information on the suspension of the daily overtime requirement is available by calling the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement wage unit offices. In the affected counties, these offices may be reached at: Los Angeles, (213) 897-4037; Long Beach, (310) 590-5044; Van Nuys, (818) 901-5312; Ventura, (805) 654-4538; Santa Ana, (714) 558-4111; and San Bernardino (909) 383-4333.