July 6, 2006

Christine Baker

CHSWC Releases Report on the Forum on Catastrophe Preparedness:
Partnering to Protect Workplaces, April 7, 2006

Oakland -- The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation (CHSWC), has approved the release a Report on the Forum on Catastrophe Preparedness: Partnering to Protect Workplaces. The report reviews the main themes and key points from presentations at the forum, co-hosted by CHSWC and RAND, that took place on April 7, 2006, in San Francisco. Sponsors included: the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; Department of Industrial Relations (DIR); Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Cal/OSHA; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); California Labor Federation; Risk Management Solutions (RMS); SwissRe: and the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of California, Berkeley.

The forum was a public education program devoted to workplace safety issues in the event of terrorism attacks and natural disasters. It brought together employers, workers, leaders in emergency response and homeland security and the public together to participate in presentations and discussions. One hundred years after the catastrophic earthquake of 1906, earthquake risk and the risk of other catastrophes, including terrorism, continue to loom large for Californians and the nation. September 11 demonstrated that the risk of a catastrophe while people are at work and the risks to the workers who respond require the urgent attention of employers, workers and policymakers.

Key themes emphasized during the forum included: disaster preparedness is an occupational safety and health issue; occupational safety and health is about labor and employer cooperation, as well as public and private partnerships; preparedness includes first-responder safety, and the definition of first responder has been broadened to include employees themselves; and the insurance system is a critical part of preparedness as compensation is necessary both for rebuilding structures and for providing support to the families of the dead and seriously injured.

The forum provided an opportunity for the health, safety and workers' compensation communities and the public to:

CHSWC believes that the Forum on Catastrophe Preparedness: Partnering to Protect Workplaces added an important focus to the natural and unnatural risks faced during normal working hours and in high-risk occupations, such as those of first responders.

CHSWC, created by the workers' compensation reform legislation of 1993, is charged with overseeing the health and safety and workers' compensation systems in California and recommending administrative or legislative modifications to improve their operation. CHSWC was established to conduct a continuing examination of the workers' compensation system and of the state's activities to prevent industrial injuries and occupational diseases and to examine those programs in other states.

Information about CHSWC and the Forum on Catastrophe Preparedness may be accessed on the Internet at CHSWC's home page at Information may also be obtained by writing to CHSWC at 1515 Clay Street, Suite 901, Oakland, California, 94612, by calling (510) 622-3959, by faxing a request to (510) 622-3265, or by email at