The proposal from California Association of Professional Scientists (CAPS) comes on the heels of a February 2006 report by the California Bureau of State Audits that was highly critical of Cal/OSHA's performance of responding to worker complaints at the San Francisco Bay Bridge. (See "Bay Bridge Project: Audit Calls for Better Safety Oversight.")
The CAPS proposal would increase the number of authorized workplace inspector positions in Cal/OSHA from 200 to 300. Currently, only 170 of those authorized positions are filled. The increased number of inspectors would give Cal/OSHA the same inspector-to-worker ratio that Federal OSHA has nationally.
CAPS has pointed out that chronic understaffing is the underlying reason for Cal/OSHA's poor performance at the Bay Bridge, and that lack of inspectors is seriously compromising the agency's ability to meet its legally mandated responsibilities to protect the health and safety of 17.7 million workers in over 1 million workplaces in California.
Current Cal/OSHA staffing levels mean that each of the 170 inspectors is responsible for over 100,000 workers and 6,800 worksites. Federal OSHA inspectors have a ratio about half that level, while neighboring states like
Oregon and Washington have an inspector-to-worker ratio about one-quarter California's level.