I. Role

The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Standards Board) is the standards setting agency within the Cal/OSHA Program. As such, the Standards Board is the only agency in the state authorized to adopt, amend or repeal occupational safety and health standards or orders. In addition, the Standards Board maintains standards for certain areas not covered by federal standards or enforcement. These latter standards apply to elevators, aerial passenger tramways, amusement rides, pressure vessels, and mine safety training.

II. Cal/OSHA program overview

California is one of several states which administers its own occupational safety and health program according to the provisions of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The federal law permits a state to administer its own occupational safety and health program if it meets all of the federal requirements regarding the program's structure and operations.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 revised worker safety and health laws and created a comprehensive state occupational safety and health program in lieu of federal preemption. The program established a clear separation of authorities for standards, enforcement and appeals. The purpose of the Act is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for all California workers.

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Division) enforces the occupational safety and health laws and the standards adopted by the Standards Board. The Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board is the quasi-judicial agency, resolving disputes arising out of the enforcement of Cal/OSHA standards by the Division. In addition to these three major components, the Cal/OSHA Consultation Service provides a full range of free consultation service on Cal/OSHA standards to any employer upon request.

Other divisions that support the Cal/OSHA Program include the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, which enforces state laws that protect workers from retaliation when exercising their rights under Cal/OSHA and finally, the Division of Labor Statistics and Research which administers the Cal/OSHA record keeping requirements and publishes statistics on occupational injuries and illnesses.

Overall program administration for Cal/OSHA is provided by the Department of Industrial Relations. The California program - Cal/OSHA - is approved by the U. S. Department of Labor (Federal OSHA) and is monitored by and receives part of its funding from the Federal Government.

III. Overall responsibility

The Standards Board consists of seven (7) members appointed by the Governor. Two members are selected from labor, two members from management, one member from occupational safety, one member from occupational health, and one member from the general public. The chairperson is selected and serves at the pleasure of the Governor. The administration of the Standards Board is delegated by the Chairperson of the Board to an Executive Officer, who is selected by the members of the Board and serves at their pleasure. A small staff assists the Executive Officer in developing proposals, evaluations, reports, and recommendations to the Board.

The Standards Board:

1. adopts and maintains occupational safety and health standards;

2. considers petitions for new or revised standards proposed by any interested person concerning occupational safety and health;

3. grants permanent variances from occupational safety and health standards;

4. acts as a review body for any employer or other person adversely affected by the granting or denial of a temporary variance by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health; and

5. holds monthly public meetings to permit interested persons to address the Board on any occupational safety and health matters or to propose new or revised standards.

A. Standards

As required by California's State Plan approved by the U. S. Department of Labor, and the State's enabling legislation (Stats. 1973, ch. 993), the Standards Board must adopt standards at least as effective as the federal standards for all issues that have federal standards promulgated under Section 6 of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 within six (6) months of the effective date of the federal standard (Labor Code Section 142.3). When emergency federal standards are adopted, the Standards Board must adopt an emergency standard at least as effective as the federal emergency standard as soon as possible (Labor Code Section 142.4/ California State Plan).

The policy of the Standards Board is that all standards must be enforceable, reasonable, understandable, and contribute directly to the safety and health of California employees. This basic policy extends to all standards regardless of the source with few exceptions for standards substantially the same as federal standards. The public hearing and adoption process is governed by the Administrative Procedure Act in the Government Code.

After the necessity for a rulemaking action is established, proposed standard changes are developed by either the Board's staff or the Division's staff, generally with the assistance and recommendations of an advisory committee. Advisory committees consist of representatives from industry, labor, the public, and other interested groups.

If the changes are related to federal standards, the proposal is reviewed by Federal OSHA staff to ensure that the standards are "at least as effective as" the federal standards.

The proposal is then scheduled for hearing at one of the Board's public hearings. Written and oral testimony is encouraged and received at public hearings. Following the public hearing, all testimony is returned to the originating staff (either the Board staff or the Division) for review, and the proposed standard change may be revised in response to written and oral comments.

When all comments and testimony have been addressed by either modifying the proposal or providing a satisfactory explanation for rejection of suggested changes, the Board's staff schedules the proposed standard for consideration and adoption at the Board's business meeting.

Following adoption, a copy of the rulemaking file is sent to the Office of Administrative Law. After approval, the standards are published in Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.

B. Petitions

Any interested person may petition the Standards Board to adopt, amend, or repeal an occupational safety and health standard (Labor Code Section 142.2). Such proposals may be made orally or in writing at the Board's public meeting or may be submitted in writing to the Board at any time. Persons making oral proposals to the Board will be asked to submit their proposals in writing stating clearly and concisely (1) the substance or nature of the standard, amendment, or repeal requested; and (2) the reason for the request.

The Standards Board must consider such a petition or proposal and issue a decision within six (6) months. Petitions must be referred to the Division for an evaluation (Labor Code Section 147) and the Board's staff also prepares an independent evaluation of the petition. A proposed decision, prepared by the Board's staff, is considered by the Board at one of its business meetings.

C. Variances

Any employer may apply to the Standards Board for a permanent variance from any standard or portion thereof upon showing of an alternate program, means, method, device, or process that will provide equal or superior safety for employees. The Standards Board is authorized to grant such variances if it is determined upon investigation and hearing that the Applicant has demonstrated by a preponderance of evidence that the proposed alternate safety and health measures provide equal or superior safety and health to those which would prevail if the existing standard were complied with (Labor Code Section 143).

Upon receipt by the Standards Board of a request for permanent variance, the application must be referred to the Division (Labor Code Section 147) and to the Board's staff for its independent evaluation. A hearing date is set as soon as possible, usually within 120 days of receipt of the application. Variance hearings are conducted by a Hearing Officer from the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board's staff. Two Board members are generally assigned to the hearing panel depending upon the complexities of the issues involved. Following the hearing, the Hearing Officer, as instructed by the panel, drafts a proposed decision. The Board, by majority vote, may adopt the proposed decision or decide the case itself. The decision contains both a summary of evidence and the reasons for the decision.

D. Temporary Variance Appeals

Any employer or other person adversely affected by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health's granting or denial of a temporary variance may appeal within fifteen (15) working days from receipt of notice granting or denying the temporary variance to the Standards Board. The variance appeal decision by the Board is binding on all parties involved in the appeal, except for any rehearing or judicial review. The appeals are handled in the same manner as a request for permanent variance as previously outlined.

E. Public meetings, public hearings, and business meetings

Once a month the Standards Board normally holds a public meeting, public hearing, and business meeting on the same date. All Board hearings and meetings are open to the public. Notices of Board public hearings are published in the California Regulatory Notice Register by the Office of Administrative Law at least 45 days in advance of the meeting date. In addition, written notice and an agenda are mailed to all persons who request them from the Standards Board (Labor Code Section 142.1).

At each of its required monthly public meetings, the Standards Board makes time available for interested persons to address the Board on occupational safety and health matters or to propose new or revised orders or standards. During the public hearing, the Board considers testimony on proposed revisions or new occupational safety and health standards. At its business meetings, the Board conducts its monthly business of formally adopting standards and proposed decisions for petitions and variances, and considers other business matters.

IV. Other information

A. List of Board members and personnel

A roster of Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board Members is maintained as a public record. An organizational chart and a list of positions and personnel is also maintained.

B. Cal/OSHA program changes

The Governor's Budget for 1987/88 resulted in a reorganization of the Cal/OSHA Program by transferring enforcement responsibilities from the private sector to Federal OSHA. During disengagement, the Standards Board continued to carry out its responsibilities relative to public sector worksites and those standards which the Division continued to enforce.

With the passage of Proposition 97 in November 1988, the people of California voted to fully restore the Cal/OSHA Program to the pre-1987 level.

Inquiries may be directed to Executive Officer, Christina Shupe, at (916) 274-5721.

May 2019