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February 27, 2013
Governor signs bill addressing mental health facility IIPPs, vetoes other worker safety bills

The California legislature passed five bills this year that could have affected occupational safety and health practices as well as liability for agricultural employers and state hospitals. This fall, Governor Brown signed one of those bills but vetoed the rest.

Healthcare workers: A.B. 2399

Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (A.B) 2399 into law. Although state hospitals, like all California workplaces, are required by Cal/OSHA to develop Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPPs), this new law writes a requirement into the state's Welfare and Institutions Code for each California state hospital that treats the mentally ill to develop an IIPP and add certain elements to any existing programs.

The new law requires state hospitals that treat the mentally ill to:

  • Update their IIPPs at least annually. The updated plans must address, at a minimum:

  • —Control of physical access throughout the hospital and grounds;

    —Alarm systems;

    —Presence of security personnel;

    —Training;

    —Buddy systems;

    —Communication; and

    —Emergency response.

  • Establish an injury and illness prevention committee, which would meet at least four times a year, to provide recommendations to the hospital's director on updates to the IIPP.

  • Develop an incident reporting procedure that can be used to develop reports of patient assaults on employees and assist the hospital in identifying risks of patient assaults on employees.

Practice tip

The California legislature has overhauled its website to make it more user-friendly.

Vetoed safety bills

Governor Brown vetoed four other bills that were of interest to California employers because of their potential impact on worker health and safety. That doesn't mean employers won't have to worry about these bills, though. Some were vetoed because they were redundant with existing provisions, others because similar provisions will soon be implemented through regulatory, rather than legislative, channels.

A.B. 2346, the Farm Worker Safety Act of 2012, would have reiterated the requirement that employers must comply with Cal/OSHA's heat illness prevention regulations and prohibited employers from penalizing or dismissing workers who reported noncompliance with the act or the regulations. The bill's most controversial provision would have allowed farmworkers who suffered heat illness while working under conditions that violated the law to sue their employers (this is generally prohibited under workers' compensation laws). In his veto message, Governor Brown stated that this bill would single out agricultural employers and burden the courts with private lawsuits.

A.B. 2676, the Humane Treatment of Farm Workers Act, would have criminalized certain violations of California's heat illness prevention requirements. The governor stated in his veto message that he does not believe that creating a new crime that applies only to one group of employers is an effective way to enforce heat illness prevention standards in the state.

S.B. 1246 would have granted the state Department of Public Health (DPH) greater authority to enforce hospital nurse staffing ratios and patient classification system requirements. The governor vetoed this bill on the grounds that DPH is in the process of creating a rule addressing this issue that will be completed in 2013.

S.B. 2623 would require the Department of State Hospitals to adopt and implement a policy to arm state hospital police officers. The governor vetoed this bill on the grounds that the department's director already possesses the authority to arm the officers.

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