AB 1127 or the “Tosco Bill”

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

AB 1127 would unfairly hold an employer liable for violations of independent contractors over whom they had no control. This is not only unfair, it makes no sense. And, as a result, AB 1127 will discourage employers from hiring independent contractors, who are often small and minority-owned businesses.

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California Chamber of Commerce President, Editorial, Sacramento Business Journal.

It is our belief that while AB 1127 will not guarantee the prevention of even one injury, it has the potential to cost our members hundreds of thousands of dollars in new programs based on unsound science and face potential increases in workers’ compensation costs.

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Western Growers Association, Memo to Assembly Public Safety Committee.

...this is a very dangerous measure that will seriously affect virtually every employer in the state. The only outcome form this measure’s approval would be the closing of many businesses which, in-turn, would throw thousands of employees out of their jobs.

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Philip M. Vermeulen on behalf of the Engineering Contractors’ Association, the California Fence Contractors Association, the Sacramento Builders’ Exchange, the Marin Builders’ Exchange and the California Chapter of the American Fence Contractors’ Association.

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.

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Jeffrey M. Tanenbaum, of Littler Mendelson, P.C.