2020 Cal/OSHA Inspection and Citation Statistics

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

Since August 2020, Cal/OSHA has issued COVID-19 citations with proposed penalties totaling almost $3,500,000.


  • Cal/OSHA has not shied away from issuing citations related to COVID-19.
  • As the pandemic subsides, Cal/OSHA will likely return to business as normal in terms of typical inspection targets.

As we come up on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, we look back on the Division of Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA’s) enforcement activity in 2020. The agency states on its website that it “administers the largest state OSHA plan in the nation and consistently exceeds its inspection goals,” conducting “the most inspections in the nation.”

Cal/OSHA has made a table of inspections that resulted in COVID-19 citations available here. The table includes the name of the employer, the number and type of citations (with a link to a copy of the citations), and proposed penalties.

Approximately 150 inspections were completed in the six-month period between August 2020 and February 2021. Proposed penalties ranged from $350 to $396,070, averaging $23,000 per inspection. Almost 60 of the inspections were related to an “accident” or “fatality,” and almost 80 of the inspections were opened in response to a complaint or referral. The most cited industries were supermarket/grocery and various manufacturing (including food and electronics).

Most of the COVID-19 citations were tied to violations of 8 C.C.R. section 3203 [Injury and Illness Prevention Program], 8 C.C.R. section 342(a) [failure to timely report serious illness or death of employee], and 8 C.C.R. section 14300.4 [failure to record work-related illnesses or fatalities on OSHA 300 form]. We note that although Cal/OSHA may have initiated inspections for COVID-19 reasons, citations often went beyond COVID-19 issues into other areas of workplace safety.

As previously alerted here, Cal/OSHA has an emergency standard in place for a COVID-19 Prevention Plan, which is modeled off the Injury and Illness Prevention Program required of all California employers. Given the emergency standard has now been effective for three months, we expect future citations to be tied to violations of the COVID-19 Prevention Plan instead of the Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

Process Safety Management (PSM) inspections and citations decreased somewhat in 2020, likely due to Cal/OSHA’s focus on COVID-19 inspections. Approximately 128 inspections were conducted by the PSM North and South Refinery and Non-Refinery units in 2020, and only 34 resulted in citations. By comparison, 138 inspections were conducted in 2019, though 99 resulted in citations. As life transitions out of the pandemic, we expect Cal/OSHA to revert its focus back to PSM and other, more typical, workplace safety inspections.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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