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Amy Martin

Martin is chief counsel for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health

With a keen legal mind and a passion for workplace safety, Martin is Cal/OSHA's legal eagle, defending the division's citations in the appeals system, and other court challenges.

Amy MartinResume: Prior to her current appointment, she worked in DOSH for eight years, first as staff counsel and later as special counsel. Martin has recently participated in advisory committee sessions that led to the drafting of AB 2774, and as chief counsel will be responsible for prosecutions arising from the statute. She is also known for her role in promulgation of numerous regulations and statutes directly effecting worker safety in California. Before joining Cal/OSHA, she was a partner at Van Bourg, Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld, specializing in labor and employment law. She also spent six years as an adjunct professor at University of California, Hastings School of Law, teaching mediation and negotiations with an emphasis on labor issues.

Schools:  She received her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, and her undergraduate degree from San Francisco State University.

Q&A

Injury and illness rates continue to decrease, with some exceptions. What's the next great leap forward in occupational safety and health?

Vigorous enforcement and education of employers.

One group – Hispanics/Latinos -- suffers a disproportionate number of injuries and illnesses. Why? How should California address this problem?

The same as above: vigorous enforcement and education. Any group of people that is vulnerable because they don’t necessarily have, for whatever reason, access to the means of protecting their rights is going to be the group to suffer the most, whether it is through failure to pay wages, or occupational safety hazards or a host of other issues. The way to address that, and the way to empower those workers, is to make sure that those of us who are in a position to enforce the law do so and those in a position to educate and empower those workers also do so.

The Injury and Illness Prevention Program is the basic safety requirement for California employers. Now Fed-OSHA is working toward adopting its version of this requirement. Does the California IIPP standard need revision or is it fine the way it is? And if it needs revision, how so?

The IIPP program in California is a good program. We have been enforcing it with great success. It seems to be the model for what the Feds are proposing.

 

If you could change anything about Cal/OSHA, what would it be?

                a. Should enforcement be increased?
                b. Communications
                c. Training for inspectors  

Cal OSHA functions well and meets its mandate. I don’t know that I would make any large changes. Of course, being chief counsel, I would love to have a larger legal staff. But we do a fine job with the dedicated and competent legal team we have.

 

Some observers say injury and illness rates are higher than they appear because employers find ways to hide injuries, or not record them. Do you agree this is a serious problem and if so, how should it be addressed?

It is a serious problem if people don’t report. It affects our ability to investigate and enforce Title 8. The division vigorously enforces § 342(a) where appropriate.

 

California  has a long history of crafting groundbreaking regulations that the rest of the country eventually picks up. What's the next one?

This is not a question that I could address as the Standards Board is responsible for developing new regulations.

 

Will AB 2774 resolve the problems cited by DOSH on serious violations and provide a more equitable appeals system? If not, how should it be reformed?

I certainly hope so. It all depends on how it gets interpreted by the appeals board. Those cases are just starting to hit the appeals level. We’ll have to wait and see, but certainly that’s why it was promulgated.

 

Should DOSH approach enforcement with more of an eye toward achieving compliance, rather than looking for violations to cite? And if so, would such an approach work?

We do approach enforcement with “an eye toward achieving compliance.” That’s what we are tasked to do by our mandate. Compliance is reached through enforcement and education? We provide opportunities for compliance with outreach and education as well as the availability of our free consultation services. When employers fail to take those routes enforcement is necessary. There may be a new direction, but we have always tried to incorporate this blend so that it doesn’t look like we are just heavy-handed in our enforcement approach.

 

What should Cal/OSHA do to help small employers create safe workplaces and comply with Title 8 regulations?

Small employers should avail themselves of the consultation process. Some don’t perhaps because they don’t know it’s out there. We have a consultation service that will come out to any site that they are requested to go to, and assist that site in complying with our regulations. We also do a lot of outreach on any number of topics with different industries, particularly when something is changed in the law. Our outreach to the agricultural community, for example, is impressive.

 

What about safety do employers struggle with the most?

I don’t think there is any trend I could point to. Employers are responsible to know the law and to comply with it.

 
Are there reliable and knowledgeable training people available?

I’ve seen some great consultants. There are also some poor ones. Employers should be careful who they are relying on.

 

What kind of training is the most crucial for employers to provide?

That’s hard to say as a generic issue. For training to be effective, it needs to be geared to an individual employer’s worksite. Employers have to have a good and functioning IIPP. What’s that mean? It means systematically reviewing your worksite on a regular basis to identify the hazards that your particular work presents to the employees and then training the employees how to deal with those hazards.

 

What else do you read to get your occupational safety and health information?

In my position, I of course read all the Decisions After Reconsideration from the Appeals Board. Plus, I see everything that’s coming through Cal/OSHA. We have experts in all areas of safety and industrial hygiene. So I go right to the source when I need to keep abreast of what’s happening.

 

How did you get started in safety? Was there any particular experience in your career that triggered your interest in safety? What’s interesting about it? What’s interesting about it now?

I was a labor attorney doing regular employment law and traditional labor work. Eventually, my area of practice became more and more focused on workplace safety.

 

What’s interesting about it now?

We save lives.

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