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Cal/OSHA: An Overview

UpKeep’s OSHA series is a collection of easy-to-digest resources and compliance checklists based on Federal and State OSHA Plans .
For those in the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry looking for additional resources, check out our SQF Audit Food Safety Checklists here.

What’s Ahead?

    • General Cal/OSHA Overview
    • How To Prepare for a Cal/OSHA Inspection
    • Common Cal/OSHA Violations
    • Cal/OSHA Inspection Info and Checklists To Prepare Your Facility
    • Examples of Completed Cal/OSHA Audits

A General Overview of Cal/OSHA

California is one of 22 states with an OSHA State Plan that covers the occupational safety and health of both private sector and state and local government workers. The California Department of Industrial Relations oversees the enforcement and administration of the California State Plan through Cal/OSHA.

California’s State Plan was approved by OSHA in 1973. It has stricter standards than the Federal OSHA Plan and, in many cases, also has standards with no federal counterpart.

Who is Cal/OSHA for?

Cal/OSHA applies to California-based private sector businesses across industries. As a result, almost every CA business will need to consider the Cal/OSHA standards and regulations that are applicable to their industry. In large facilities, ensuring compliance may be driven by a Compliance Manager or EHS Manager. In smaller facilities, or one where there is no Compliance or EHS Manager, this information will be important to a Facility Manager, HR Representative, or other designated personnel.

While it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for their employees, the employees also need to be aware of these standards. In California, all employers must meet specific workplace posting obligations by sharing these safety and health postings in an area frequented by all employees where it may be easily read throughout the day. For a list of Cal/OSHA safety and health postings, check out the Cal/OSHA Publications page.

Why is Cal/OSHA important?

The health and safety of employees is top of mind for any business. Cal/OSHA compliance ensures employers take necessary precautions to protect employees from harm in the workplace.  Not abiding by Cal/OSHA standards and regulations can lead to citations or fines to the employer, or worse, illness, injury, or death to an employee.

What is included in Cal/OSHA?

Cal/OSHA includes all of the Federal OSHA guidelines covering a broad range of topics related to employee occupational health and safety. Because California operates under a State Plan, there are additional regulations and standards that go beyond what is included in the Federal OSHA Plan. The standards unique to California include:

  • Toxic Chemical Handling and Exposure
  • Agriculture
  • Repetitive Motion Injuries
  • Child Labor
  • Heat Exposure
  • Noise Exposure
  • Injury and Illness Prevention Program
  • Aerosol Transmissible Diseases
  • Petroleum Drilling and Production
  • Petroleum Refining, Transport, and Handling
  • Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care
Unique to Cal/OSHA is the requirement that every workplace have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). There is no federal OSHA counterpart standard similar to this plan!

The IIPP rule requires all employers to develop and implement a safety and health program tailored to that workplace and the unique risks that accompany it. Cal/OSHA publishes a variety of guides and resources to aid employers in creating this plan, however this is also an area in which an employer can request an on-site Cal/OSHA consultation for help in building out an IIPP.


How do I prepare for a Cal/OSHA Inspection?

Specific preparation tips for a Cal/OSHA inspection will vary based on whether the inspection is regularly scheduled, or the a result of an employee request, incident, referral, etc. A few general questions to keep in mind that will make the process as seamless as possible, include:

  • Where will you hold the opening conference?
  • Who will meet the OSHA inspector and accompany them on the walk around?
  • Do you have materials, camera, or other items you can use to document and record what the inspector sees and points out?
  • Can you quickly locate Cal/OSHA logs, your IIPP, hazard communication plans, etc.?

How can I be ‘Inspection Ready’ at all times?

  • Avoid using paper and pencil for any documentation. Technology is your friend here!
  • Move to a digital system to prevent lost records. This also makes the inspector’s life easier and allows them to more easily refer back and review prior work.
  • Conduct your own internal compliance inspections on a consistent basis; ensure SOPs and protocols are clearly posted and fully understood.
  • Train staff to do hazard inspections of your operations and document the findings. If possible, have staff in a different department conduct these inspections.

How often does a Cal/OSHA inspection occur?

The cadence of Cal/OSHA inspection is dependent on several factors and inspections can come as a result of regular scheduling, imminent danger reports, fatalities, and worker complaints or referrals.


Common Cal/OSHA Violations

The most common Cal/OSHA violation relates to the Injury and Illness Prevention Program or IIPP.

These violations can be lessened or avoided by having Cal/OSHA Consultation Services come out and conduct their own inspection. This process is by request and the purpose is NOT to cite your facility, but to identify areas where improvements could be made and provide guidance on how to do that and, ultimately, improve your IIPP.

What to do if you’ve been cited following an inspection?

  • Many violations are minor and can be addressed with a prompt remediation.
  • Follow up with your inspector on corrective action plans shortly after your inspection and work closely with your in-house team to ensure follow through with that plan.
  • Immediately share any requested documents with your inspector following the inspection.

Cal/OSHA Hazard Assessment Checklist

One way to ensure your facility is in compliance with Cal/OSHA is to conduct your own internal inspections utilizing a checklist like the one below as a guide. This checklist is based on Cal/OSHA standards and is broken down by area. Within the Sheet, use Control + F to find the checklist relevant to the area you are focused on.

View Checklists


Examples of Completed Cal/OSHA Audits

Attribution: The resources presented here were sourced from Cal/OSHA. For additional reading, tools and context please visit them here.

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