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
The provisions of this bill are extremely open-ended, and encumber both employers and Cal/OSHA with many unreasonable administrative burdens and costs.
For the last few years, Cal/OSHA has attempted to create a partnership with employers to create safe workplaces for all employees. This partnership has been focused on working together to solve problems rather than merely serve as an enforcement driven agency. The agency’s consultation service is evidence of the efforts. AB 1127 would, with the stroke of a pen, erase years of hard work and co-operation between business and the agency by focusing on the prescription of regulations rather than the creation of workable answers to true workplace safety issues.
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.
Additionally, in a construction setting, where the type of work is inherently more dangerous than an office setting, it will be difficult to hire managers and supervisors for fear that they would be held criminally liable for accidents.