Cal-OSHA is Experiencing a Staffing Crisis. Here’s How That Endangers California Workers.

March 28, 2024 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

Cal-OSHA is Experiencing a Staffing Crisis. Here’s How That Endangers California Workers.

In California, where over 18 million workers rely on the state agency Cal-OSHA for workplace safety, a severe and chronic understaffing issue is putting employees at risk, according to a new investigation by the Sacramento Bee.

The Cal-OSHA Bureau of Investigations, responsible for investigating accidents and potential criminal negligence, has been operating with at least a 50% vacancy rate for each of the last six years, and currently has only two investigators for the entire state – a 67% vacancy rate, according to media reports. This shortage not only burdens Cal-OSHA employees with overwhelming workloads but also leaves California workers waiting in backlogs for months as employers face minimal consequences for endangering their health and safety. According to the Bee investigation, with a 34% overall vacancy rate and a 37% rate among health and safety inspectors, Cal-OSHA struggles to keep up with its responsibilities.

This staffing shortage has far-reaching implications, affecting the enforcement of workplace standards and the ability to proactively inspect workplaces to prevent accidents.

“Without immediate action, Cal-OSHA will continue to fail in its mission to protect the 18 million workers across California,” said Beatriz Trejo, partner and workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Office of Chain | Cohn | Clark. “The deterrent effect of this agency has been greatly diminished, and workers are paying the price with their health and safety.”



More than 450 California workers were killed on the job each year in 2020, 2021 and 2022 — according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Injured workers face additional hurdles due to Cal-OSHA’s inability to thoroughly investigate non-fatality cases, according to the investigation. Individuals who survive life-altering injuries but do not receive criminal investigations from Cal-OSHA due to staffing shortages, are left without closure or accountability from their employers. The division’s struggles with hiring and retaining talent have led to a cycle of understaffing that perpetuates the crisis.

The chronic understaffing at Cal-OSHA poses a significant threat to California workers’ safety and well-being. Addressing this crisis requires concerted efforts from policymakers, stakeholders, and the public to prioritize workplace safety and hold employers accountable for maintaining safe working environments, according to the investigation.

“By shedding light on these issues and advocating for change, we can work towards a safer and more secure future for all Californian workers,” attorney Trejo said.

For injured workers navigating this complex landscape, seeking legal advice and understanding their rights is crucial. While Cal-OSHA grapples with staffing shortages, injured employees can explore avenues for compensation through legal channels and advocate for their rights in the workplace. By staying informed about safety regulations, reporting violations promptly, and seeking support from advocacy groups or legal professionals, injured workers can navigate the challenges posed by Cal-OSHA’s staffing crisis.

Here are some tips for workers in California who are injured on the job:

  1. Seek Medical Attention Immediately: If you are injured at work, seek medical care right away, even if the injury seems minor. This creates an official record of your injury and starts the process for potential workers’ compensation benefits.
  2. Report the Injury to Your Employer: Notify your employer about the injury as soon as possible, following your company’s procedures. This ensures your injury is documented and you can begin the claims process.
  3. File a Workers’ Compensation Claim: Work with your employer to file a workers’ compensation claim. This will cover your medical expenses and potentially provide wage replacement benefits if you need to miss work due to your injury.
  4. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of your injury, medical treatment, time off work, and any communication with your employer or the workers’ compensation system. This documentation can help support your claim.
  5. Understand Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with California’s workers’ compensation laws and your rights as an injured worker. This includes the right to choose your own doctor and the right to appeal any denied claims.
  6. Seek Legal Assistance if Needed: If your workers’ compensation claim is denied or you encounter issues, consider consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. They can help navigate the complex legal process and ensure you receive the benefits you’re entitled to.
  7. Be Aware of Cal-OSHA’s Staffing Challenges: Understand that the severe understaffing at Cal-OSHA, the state agency responsible for workplace safety, may impact the investigation and enforcement of your case. This underscores the importance of thorough documentation and seeking legal support.

By taking these steps, injured workers in California can protect their rights and increase their chances of receiving the compensation and support they need during their recovery.


If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at