Cal/OSHA Ushers in a New Era

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), best known for containing Cal/OSHA, welcomed a new leadership team this month, following the departure of longtime DOSH Chief Dr. John Howard.

Led by Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) assistant director Suzanne Marria, the team also includes DOSH deputy for safety, Vicky Heza, and DOSH special counsel, Len Welsh. The team assumed responsibility after Howard accepted an appointment as director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

"The new management team's combined expertise provides California workers and employers with a smooth transition and brings an expansive perspective to the division," said DIR Director Stephen J. Smith.

Other DOSH responsibilities encompass consultative and educational assistance for employers, issuing permits for construction activities and tower cranes, registering asbestos contractors and certifying asbestos consultants. DOSH engineering programs protect workers and the public through elevator, amusement ride and pressure vessel inspections.

Marria began her career in the Cal/OSHA legal unit while in law school in 1981. During her early years with the department, she directed southern California's legal investigations team and served in the Division of Workers' Compensation. She then worked for the International Association of Machinists Local 1781 before rejoining DIR in the director's legal unit. From 1994 through 1998 Marria served as senior counsel for the Industrial Medical Council before her appointment by the governor as the department's assistant director in 1999.

Heza brings her experience as Cal/OSHA's deputy chief for field enforcement and 13 years with the division to her new role. During her tenure as chief of enforcement Heza oversaw the implementation of Cal/OSHA's targeted enforcement programs in agriculture and construction, two of California's most hazardous occupations. Heza served the division as an industrial hygienist, managed the San Diego enforcement office and was named regional manager for the Cal/OSHA consultation unit before being appointed deputy chief.

Welsh's groundbreaking work developing the state's first needlestick protections for workers and its first permanent amusement ride regulations helped create a safer place to work and play for Californians. An attorney and industrial hygienist, Welsh began work with Cal/OSHA in 1981 and after a short break practicing privately as an environmental attorney and an industrial hygienist, he returned to Cal/OSHA's legal unit in 1986. As staff counsel, Welsh represented Cal/OSHA in civil matters while managing development of new regulations and enforcement policies. He was appointed deputy chief for health in 1999 and most recently has served as special counsel to the DOSH chief.

Howard, who served as the chief of DOSH from 1991-2002, leaves a legacy that includes:

  • Legislative mandates that ban tobacco smoke in the workplace, target high hazard industries, protect workers from needle sticks, improve safety at refineries and chemical plants, apply stiffer deterrent penalties for workplace safety violations and protect patrons of permanent amusement parks.
  • Increased inspections of agricultural and construction worksites and formation of rapid response teams to promptly investigate serious workplace injuries and fatalities.
  • Innovative enforcement of ergonomic hazards, workplace security and tuberculosis exposure.
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