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

This bill would have a severe economic impact on local, family businesses like the beer wholesalers by exposing them to increased liability and the potential for costly litigation claims.

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California Beer and Beverage Distributors

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.

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Terry L. Tyson, Regional Director of Safety, Hansen Aggregates, letter to Assembly Public Safety Committee.

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.

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Western States Petroleum 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.