WHAT’S NEW IN 2021 INDUSTRY SUFFOCATION ORDERS « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


California’s Safety Agency Now With Pandemic “Imminent Hazard” Shutdown Powers

Sacramento continues to equip the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) with expanded powers in these days of COVID. Assembly Bill (AB) 685 (Labor Code 6325(b)), effective for two years from January 1, 2021, enables the agency to shut down any business operation or place of employment when, in Cal/OSHA’s “opinion,” that venue poses a COVID-related “imminent hazard” to such operations or workforce.

There are some boundaries:

  • Cal/OSHA’s power is limited to “the immediate area in which the imminent hazard exists”; the agency may not prohibit operations or access to portions of a workplace “which is not exposing employees to, or is outside such area of imminent hazard”;
  • Cal/OSHA may not apply this power if it would “materially interrupt the performance of critical government functions essential to ensuring public health and safety functions or the delivery of electrical power or water” (e.g. Cal/OSHA can’t shut itself down for any such hazard); and
  • The agency has no power to prevent entry to or use of such a condemned venue for the sole purpose of eliminating the dangerous conditions.

Cal/OSHA regards any hazardous condition or practice “imminent” “which could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of the hazard can be eliminated through regular Cal/OSHA enforcement procedures.”  Since the law only requires the agency’s  “opinion” on the matter, apparently Cal/OSHA will know – and be trusted to know — an imminent hazard when it sees one.

Suffice to say this new power should motivate continued effective commercial pandemic prevention and control actions to prevent and limit workplace infection to absolute minimums.

See also:

For more information, please contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Tim Bowles

October 2, 2020