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'Minimal To Non-Existent': Safety Inspector Shortage Worsened In Pandemic, Leaving California Workers Vulnerable

 June 3, 2021 at 11:04 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Today a board of California's agency in charge of protecting workers from health and safety hazards is meeting to decide whether to continue mask mandates in the workplace. After June 15th, four years, Cal OSHA as it's known has been understaffed, but the problem got worse during the pandemic crippling Cal OSHA's ability to protect millions of workers who face new risks from COVID-19. Now as the head of Cal OSHA and the state's labor secretary are in line for top positions in the Biden administration, the agency's performance is facing new scrutiny, KQ EDS for Rita, John Vela, Romero reports Speaker 2: 00:38 Last summer. [inaudible] a coworker at an Oakland fast food restaurant filed a complaint with CalOSHA saying their boss. Didn't tell them when colleagues were diagnosed with COVID 19 and didn't require everyone to Speaker 3: 00:50 Wear masks [inaudible] she Speaker 2: 00:55 Wanted state inspectors to investigate quickly. She's a mom of three, and she worried about bringing home the virus to her family. But for months the violations continued. She says, and when the agency finally responded to her, nine months later, officials said their inspection had found no problems at the no, they didn't listen to her and they didn't interview her. And they took too long. A recent report by a state Senate committee says CalOSHA enforcement during the pandemic has been quote minimal to non-existent because the agency is seriously understaffed over the past two years, the vacancy rate for field inspectors at Callow, CalOSHA doubled with one in four positions unfilled as of late February, since then the agency has hired some inspectors, but more than 50 of those positions remain vacant, Speaker 4: 01:49 Kind of a very sad situation is never been this bad Speaker 2: 01:53 Brown worked for more than two decades at CalOSHA. Most of it as a field inspector, he's been tracking vacancies at the agency for you, Speaker 4: 02:00 And it has just tremendously adverse harmful impact on the health, safety and rights of workers in California. Speaker 2: 02:08 I spokeswoman with the department of industrial relations, which oversees Kahlo chef says they've been working hard to find qualified candidates, but for most of the last two years, the process slowed because after a scandal involving a former director, they needed pre-approval from the state's human resources department for hiring Garrett. Brown says Carlos has chief Doug Parker, and especially the state's labor secretary, Julie SU could have done more to solve the hiring this function, but the officials could soon be leaving Barker to had federal OSHA and sued to become deputy secretary at the U S department of labor. Speaker 4: 02:46 It's very disappointing as well. I can say Julie Sue had quite a successful record of protecting worker rights, labor rights as labor commissioner, but as labor secretary she's presided over really the Halloween out of Calloway. Speaker 2: 03:02 I spokesman said sued declined to comment, but San Jose assemblyman, Ash Kalra who heads the assemblies labor committee is less critical of Sue and Parker. Speaker 4: 03:12 I don't think this falls actually with one individual, including the department heads. I think that this is something that's been long standing. He says Speaker 2: 03:19 The pandemic has made hiring tough for all sorts of employers, but he's hopeful that CalOSHA can begin to do better. Governor Gavin Newsome has proposed to increase funding to create 70 new positions, including 33 inspectors. Speaker 4: 03:33 That's a great sign. That's what the governor's intentions. I had more possessions. Then I think it brings us some momentum to build these positions. He says that Speaker 2: 03:40 As CalOSHA steps up, it should hire inspectors who speak different languages because many of the states, nearly 6 million frontline workers are immigrants. Speaker 1: 03:52 That was for Rita jump below Ramiro reporting for K Q E D.

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Vacancies in the ranks of field inspectors, who conduct investigations, only worsened during the pandemic, crippling the agency’s ability to protect millions of workers who faced new risks from COVID-19.
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