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Workplace Safety Update

Effective January 1, 2020, AB 1805 (and the related AB 1804) made some important workplace safety reporting changes you should know about.  AB 1805 changes two definitions in the Labor Code:  “serious injury or illness” and “serious exposure”.

Serious injury and illness is now defined as “requires inpatient hospitalization, for other than medical observation or diagnostic testing, or in which an employee suffers an amputation, the loss of an eye, or any serious degree of permanent disfigurement, but does not include any injury or illness or death caused by an accident on a public street or highway, unless the accident occurred in a construction zone.”  Diagnostic testing is not defined in the regulations, of course.  Diagnostic testing is defined generally as any approach used to gather information for the purposes of a clinical decision.  Examples of diagnostic testing include:  X-rays, physical examinations, and taking of medical history.  So, admission for this purpose alone is not reportable.  However, IV fluids and medications (even the kind you could get over the counter) are regarded as “treatment”.  In a situation where someone is having X-rays, and has been given pain medication, the X-ray is excluded from the reporting requirement, but the pain medication is not.  We will need to wait and see how this new language plays out.

This revision affects reporting in the following ways:

  • Removes the 24-hour minimum time requirement for qualifying hospitalizations
  • Excludes those hospitalizations for medical observation or diagnostic testing
  • Includes the loss of an eye
  • Deletes loss of a body member, and replaces it with “amputation”
  • Eliminates the exclusion of violations under the Penal Code
  • Narrows the exclusion of injuries on public streets or highways to only those occurring in a construction zone

Serious exposure is defined as “exposure…as a result of an incident, accident, emergency, or exposure over time…in a degree or amount sufficient to create a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm in the future could result from the actual hazard created by the exposure.”  Note that this definition now includes “realistic possibility”. In practical terms, we will, again, have to wait for this to play out.  Do expect to apply this term broadly.  For the first responders who work during fires, the emergency legislation at Title 8 Section 5141.1 should be a first resource.  If the AQI for PM2.5 is 151 or greater, the regulation is in effect, and the Division would likely consider any consistent exposure beyond that level as “serious exposure”.  Note that firefighters “engaged in wildland firefighting” are exempt from Section 5141.1. 

Also, the new requirements in AB 1805 specify how employers should report.  Specifically, it should be by phone or online.  Currently the Division does not have an online mechanism for reporting, so until they implement such a reporting portal, reporting by email is acceptable.  Note that faxing is not an option.  Keep a good paper trail of your reporting with dates and times! Quick reference tools, a Serious Injury or Illness Reporting Guidance Sheet and a Quick Glance Flowchart are attached for your convenience.  RGS’ Risk & Safety Advisor Michael Bendik, can be contacted at or 650-587-7300, ext. 34 if you have any follow-up questions, or would like to discuss concerns about your workplace safety program.

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