AB 1127 or the “Tosco Bill”
In California, in 1999, passage of the landmark legislation AB 1127 (Steinberg) culminated 16 years of efforts to give stronger prosecutorial power to district attorneys to address serious and willful violations of Cal/OSHA regulations which result in worker injuries and deaths. AB 1127 is sometimes referred to as the “Tosco Bill” after two fatal Tosco refinery explosions that killed four workers and galvanized public opinion.
The bill expanded and strengthened Cal/OSHA protections; increased civil and criminal penalties for willful, serious, and repeat violations of occupational safety and health standards; and perhaps most significantly, provided that willful violation of such standards leading to death or permanent or prolonged injury of an employee may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Cry Wolf Quotes
This bill would have a negative impact on California’s economy by creating an overly rigid regulatory structure that would discourage new businesses from locating here and existing businesses from expanding, therefore, slowing the economy.
It is doubtful that doubling criminal provisions and the imposition of exorbitant fines will proportionally improve worker safety. Provisions to impose larger potential fines on corporations are also unfair and unjustified.
Proponents of the bill never provided any evidence that increasing penalties or allowing more lawsuits would actually reduce injuries or illnesses in the workplace. What is certain is that employers in California will now face far greater penalties for alleged safety and health violations than employers any-where else in the nation. Undoubtedly, this will lead to much greater litigation of Cal/OSHA citations.
We are also concerned by the provision that would prohibit a citation from being stayed pending an appeal. This provision would require that alleged violations be corrected before they are proven to exist, making an employer guilty until proven innocent.