Senate confirms Welsh as DOSH chief

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, July 2, 2008

Len Welsh, who has spent virtually his entire career with California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), was confirmed June 25 as Division Chief by the state Senate Rules Committee, four to zero.

Welsh was lauded by a parade of supporters before the committee, including labor and employer representatives.

Employer lobbyist Julianne Broyles of California Advocates praised Welsh as a consensus builder always willing to listen to stakeholder concerns, and committed to demonstrating a solid scientific basis for Cal/OSHA regulatory proposals.

Her counterpart at California Labor Federation, Angie Wei, agreed. "We don't always get what we want, but that's the compromise process," she told the committee.

Welsh was grilled by senators about the state's heat illness regulation and why it took so long to become a regulation (the original petition was filed in the mid-1980s) and why employers so often end up paying only pennies on the dollar on Cal/OSHA citations.

Senate President pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) asked Welsh why workers had to die before the heat illness regulation became a reality, after years of talk. "Senator, people were dying the whole time," Welsh replied, noting that DOSH approached the problem "locally."

On the penalty issue, Welsh noted that the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board has taken the stance that DOSH does not assess penalties, it only proposes them, and the board has the final determination on the penalty amount. But he admitted that the Division's "work product" on cases could be better and pledged to continue efforts to train inspectors and standardize procedures.

Wei urged the committee to give Cal/OSHA greater funding, pointing out that the Division's 200-plus inspection force is still smaller than that of the California Department of Fish and Game.  Perata promised to look at Cal/OSHA resources, "so maybe you'll at least be on par with Fish and Game."

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