When a California worker is injured on the job, the employer's first concern is usually the amount of workers' compensation benefits that it may be required to pay. Because workers in California cannot sue their employers for on-the-job accidents, employers often overlook the actual cause of the accident. An agency in the California Department of Industrial Relations was created to ensure that employers were held accountable for their failure to remedy unsafe working conditions. The agency's formal name is the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, but it is better known as Cal/OSHA. Cal/OSHA frequently investigates the cause of industrial accidents, and it has the power to issue fines for safety regulation violations.
Cal/OSHA recently fined Pinnacle Telecommunications for safety violations that caused severe head injuries to a worker in 2014. The worker was installing switch gears at a substation in Albany. He was required to stand seven feet above the floor on a metal structure less than 20 inches wide. Cal/OSHA found that the employer failed to train workers on fall protection and when to use fall protection equipment. The fines totaled $25,560.
Pinnacle first appealed the fines to the Occupational Safety and Health Board, but the board affirmed the penalties in September 2017. Pinnacle then filed an appeal with the Alameda County Superior Court. The court recently ruled that Cal/OSHA acted within its authority in issuing the fines.
Employers frequently ignore safety regulations in an effort to reduce expenses. When such actions cause injury to a worker, the worker is entitled to financial benefits without the necessity of proving that the employer was at fault. Nevertheless, this case demonstrates how an employer's casual disregard for safety regulations can also endanger workers.