Thanks to over a decade of hard work by Kazan Law Of Counsel and pro bono attorney Fran Schreiberg and others dedicated to worker safety, California just became the first state in the nation to pass a comprehensive toxic protection worker safety law. It will protect workers from toxins in the workplace as new scientific information about the harm they cause comes to light.
Calling the new worker safety law “groundbreaking,” Fran excitedly reviewed for me in an email when California Governor Jerry Brown officially signed the law, why it is so important.
“It is the first law in the country that requires manufacturers and those in the distribution chain to inform a government agency exactly where they are shipping a toxic material or a mixture containing a toxic material, including the quantity, and the proportions, when there is new scientific or medical information that the substance may pose a hazard in a work place and potentially poses a serious new or unrecognized health hazard, including but not limited to, cancer, reproductive or developmental harm, organ system impairment, or death,” Fran explained.
This information will make it possible for the Hazardous Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS) to target workers known to be at risk, thereby protecting employers from increased liability and employees’ health from harmful exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace.
The downside is that the worker safety law does not take effect until January 2016. Fran explained, “The delay is because HESIS will be asking for the preceding year’s information, and it was necessary to give industry notice so they would have customer information available.”
Also the new law does not cover all industrial chemicals, just ones that have been newly found by scientific research to be toxic. But given the power of industry to conceal and cover up misdeeds that put people’s health and the environment at risk – as we in the asbestos litigation field know only too well – the passage of this worker safety law is a major step to be celebrated.
The new toxic protection law formerly was known as Senate Bill 193. It was brought forward by State Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel). But Fran and other labor advocates worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many years to put together all the necessary information and explain it to other legislators.
Fran reminded those who worked on the lobbying effort, “The initial version of this bill – AB 816 by then- Assembly Member Sally Lieber – was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 2005. But with your support, we refused to give up.”
“Now it’s over to HESIS to use this power and save lives!! I am certain they will do that.”