SBE News

GSBE Weekly Update 10/16/2017

Do California Employers Need to Worry About Federal Electronic Injury and Illness Reporting Requirements?

GSBE Golden State Builders ExchangesCalifornia employers have many questions about whether the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) electronic reporting requirements currently apply to them.  The short answer is no — California employers don’t need to follow the federal requirements at this time.

First, some background: In 2016, OSHA issued a final rule regarding the tracking and reporting of workplace injuries: Electronic submission — rather than paper submission — of injury and illness data, also known as the Log 300, will be required. Covered employers with 250 or more employees will be required to electronically submit the OSHA Form 300300A and 301.  Certain smaller employers in industries with high rates of injuries and illnesses will be required to electronically submit the OSHA Form 300A.

The federal electronic reporting requirements are phased in over a two-year period. Initial federal reporting requirements set for July 1 of this year were moved to December, and the current federal administration is also reviewing the final rule.

So what does all of this mean for employers who are governed by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA?

Federal OSHA has given states that operate their own safety and health programs, such as California, extra time to implement the new requirements. The federal compliance dates don’t apply to California employers.

According to Cal/OSHA, California employers are not required to follow the new federal requirements and will not be required to do so until “substantially similar” state regulations go through the formal rulemaking, adoption and approval process.

“California employers are not affected by the federal OSHA extension date because the new requirements have not yet been adopted or approved in California,” said Department of Industrial Relations Public Information Officer Frank Polizzi to the Cal-OSHA Reporter.

Cal/OSHA drafted a proposed rulemaking package to conform to the revised federal OSHA regulations. The package is being reviewed internally before the formal rulemaking process and public comment period begins.

Until Cal/OSHA implements the federal changes here in California, the federal rules will not be enforced. Employers should be on the lookout for California’s implementation of these federal rules.

California could ban gasoline cars

In January, when the California Legislature reconvenes, Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, plans to introduce a bill that would ban new vehicles that run on gasoline or diesel after 2040.

Automakers may not be too far behind.

Last week, Ford said it would reduce spending on internal combustion engines by a third, as it introduces 13 new electric and hybrid models in the next five years. General Motors promised at least 20 new electric models by 2023; Executive Vice President Mark Reuss said GM “believes in an all-electric future.”

Other manufacturers, from BMW to Volkswagen, also have announced substantial electric vehicle initiatives. Volvo has said it will end production of cars with internal combustion engines starting in 2019. Jaguar Land Rover cars will be available in electric or hybrid versions by 2020. And Palo Alto’s Tesla continues to pump out emissions-free vehicles, with its $35,000 Model 3 — the most affordable car in its lineup — just starting to reach customers.

“There has been a paradigm shift,” said Daniel Sperling, a transportation expert at UC Davis.

The spate of announcements, he said, has been driven by the plunging cost of batteries, Europe’s discontent with diesel pollution, and China’s eagerness for electric cars.

Yet even as electric vehicles begin to move into the mainstream, experts believe incentives will be needed to make sure Californians buy them, particularly in the near term. Since transportation accounts for 37 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, cars running on clean fuels will be essential to California’s long-term goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

To get to there, “we need to transition the vast majority of our cars to electric,” with the electricity coming from renewable sources, said Don Anair, a clean vehicles specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

So far this year, all-electric vehicles make up 2.5 percent of new vehicle registrations in the state, according to the California New Car Dealers Association. Plug-in hybrids make up another 2.1 percent.

California is pushing for electric vehicles with a combination of rebates, carpool-lane privileges, charging-station investments and auto industry quotas.

Sperling, who also serves on the board overseeing the state’s Air Resources Board, which regulates pollution, said the resources board was not actively discussing a ban on new gasoline cars.

“Ban is not a good concept for such a major economic activity,” he said. Still, bans of various types are under discussion in a range of countries, from China to France.

Bloomberg reported last month that Gov. Jerry Brown had asked the air board’s chief, Mary Nichols, about the possibility of a ban. Air board spokesman Dave Clegern did not confirm or deny the report, saying only in a statement that the agency is looking at various options “including additional action on electric vehicles” to accelerate California’s clean-economy transition.

California could accomplish the ban from another angle by requiring emissions-free vehicles. The state already has a goal of having 1.5 million emissions-free vehicles on the road by 2025. Sperling said there’s a “good chance” that the mandate could be extended to 2030, but that could be the end of that particular policy if enough people are buying electric vehicles.

Asked whether the state would reach its 2025 zero-emissions vehicle goal, Sperling said, “Probably not but maybe. Hopefully, yes.”

The automaker announcements are impressive, given that there were no electric vehicles for sale in California eight years ago, said Anair. But he said that while automakers “deserve applause for embracing electric vehicles,” they are at the same time “fighting (at the federal level) to relax standards that would actually require them to do that.”

Scott Hall, director of communications for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement that manufacturers “remain committed to more reductions in fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s one reason why automakers are investing billions of dollars in advanced technologies, including electric vehicles.” Still, he added, “policy must ultimately align with marketplace realities like low fuel prices.”

The alliance has not taken a position on Ting’s planned legislation, as it has not yet been introduced. The legislation would ban the registration of new gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles after 2040, said Ting, who commutes to Sacramento with an all-electric Chevy Bolt. (California cannot ban the sale of vehicles but can regulate their registration.)

Ting hailed the automakers’ electric commitments. Asked whether the manufacturers might even end production of fossil fuel-powered cars before a potential ban took effect, he said he welcomed a “race to the finish line.” “I think it would be great to get there sooner than 2040,” he said.