The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday moved to re-establish oversight of occupational health activities following revelations in a recent Times report that for years the county has failed to maintain such a program in violation of state law.
The board voted unanimously to instruct the county’s Director of Health Services and its chief administrative officer to come up with a plan to implement state occupational health guidelines and to bring the plan back to the board for consideration by Oct. 12.
Supervisor Gloria Molina, in introducing the motion, said it is “critical that the state and county work together to ensure a safe working environment” for workers.
The Times story was the result of a six-month investigation of unsafe working conditions among Latinos in factories throughout Los Angeles County.
The report found that the state’s CAL/OSHA agency is too underfunded and understaffed to prevent accidents, and that even though the bulk of manufacturing takes place in Los Angeles County the region has been assigned proportionately fewer CAL/OSHA inspectors than other areas of the state.
Molina’s motion also seeks to ensure that CAL/OSHA assigns more inspectors to the area.
In another action Tuesday, the board adopted a series of sweeping recommendations that will change the way the county handles the thousands of lawsuits filed against it each year.
The recommendations are contained in a report by the county Citizen’s Economy and Efficiency Commission that concluded that the county is losing million of dollars through its haphazard method of handling legal claims.
The report is based on a study by an independent consulting firm that determined the county could save between $43 million and $400 million over the next four years by redirecting its spending to limit risks to county workers and avoid litigation.
The actions taken by the board represent the first significant efforts to make county supervisors more accountable in the resolution of legal disputes, Molina said.
“The report and recommendations basically begin a major revision of risk management in Los Angeles County, which in the past has always been treated as fine,” she said.
The recommendations direct the county’s top administrators to come up with plans that would consolidate the handling of lawsuits in one specialized unit, develop a cost containment program and improve the training of risk management personnel.
The county will also be looking for ways to implement mandatory arbitration, dispute resolution and mediation of lawsuits and legal claims.