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CVMA Guide to Cal/OSHA Compliance Introduction

Welcome to the California Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) Guide to Cal/OSHA Compliance. This program is designed to help veterinary practices comply with the Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) regulations. This guide is designed specifically to create a workplace health and safety plan for California veterinary facilities. It meets both Federal and California requirements when properly implemented. Manuals written to meet Fed/OSHA requirements will not satisfy California standards. This guide also assists you with implementation, employee training, and recordkeeping – three vital components to Cal/OSHA compliance.

This interactive guide walks you through compliance topics step-by-step. Once completed, you will be able to print a personalized written safety plan for your practice as required by law. This guide will save entered information and can be edited online when changes or updates are needed.

This guide includes the following topics:

  • Instructions on how to complete a customized written safety plan for your facility, including:
    • Injury and Illness Prevention Program
    • Hazard Communication Program
    • Emergency Action Plan
    • Fire Prevention Plan
    • Zoonotic Disease Prevention Plan
    • Waste Anesthetic Gas Monitoring Program
    • Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP) (if you employ outside workers)
    • Wildfire Smoke Inhalation Protection (if you employ outside workers)
    • Other Cal/OSHA Programs (if applicable)
  • Guidance on implementing your safety program
  • Training resources
  • Recordkeeping requirements
  • Downloadable forms to help you manage your safety program
  • Frequently Asked Questions about the guide

California law requires that employers update their Cal/OSHA written safety plans at least annually.


The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA Act) established a national occupational safety and health program and also allowed individual states to establish their own plans if they wished to do so. In 1973 the California Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted and approved by Fed/OSHA. This act created the Cal/OSHA program, which is monitored and partially funded by Fed/OSHA and administered by the California Department of Industrial Relations.

The major divisions and functions of the Cal/OSHA program are as follows:

  • The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has the authority to enforce all laws, standards, and orders affecting workplace health and safety. Currently DOSH employs several hundred inspectors. This is the unit most people think of as “Cal/OSHA.”
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Standards Board) adopts, amends, or repeals safety and health standards.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (Appeals Board) serves as a hearing board for contesting penalties, citations, abatement dates, or orders to take special action.
  • Cal/OSHA Consultation Services provides employers with advice and information regarding occupational safety and health. Consultation Services is a separate unit from Cal/OSHA enforcement and does not communicate with that unit except under certain strictly controlled circumstances.
  • Cal/OSHA Training Institute provides training and education in occupational safety and health for federal and state compliance officers, state consultants, other federal agency personnel, and the private sector.

Cal/OSHA standards are found in the California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Industrial Relations. Cal/OSHA jurisdiction extends to all workers in the state where an employer/employee relationship exists, with the exception of federal employees. If your practice is incorporated, even the owner of the practice is considered an employee, and therefore Cal/OSHA regulations apply. Only sole proprietors or partnerships with no employees are exempt.

Cal/OSHA Inspection – What to Expect and Your Rights

Inspection Triggers

Although Cal/OSHA inspectors will not inform a business of the reason for a particular inspection, it appears that there are three probable triggers for veterinary facility inspections: 1) a workplace death 2) a serious injury or 3) a complaint, usually filed by a former or current employee.

Workplace deaths are rare and will nearly always result in a Cal/OSHA inspection if the employee dies while performing work-related functions. Serious injury or illness is defined as “any injury or illness … which requires inpatient hospitalization for a period in excess of 24 hours for other than medical observation or in which an employee suffers a loss of any member of the body or suffers any serious degree of permanent disfigurement…” Current or former employees who file complaints with Cal/OSHA are the most common inspection triggers. It is important to note that California law prohibits employers from retaliating against current employees for reporting potential workplace hazards or violations.

Cal/OSHA has the legal authority to inspect any California business with employees at any time, without a declared reason. Therefore, all veterinary practices should keep a current Cal/OSHA written safety plan on hand and ensure that employees are familiar with the policies and procedures set forth therein. California law requires that employers update their Cal/OSHA written safety plans at least annually.

What to Expect

Cal/OSHA compliance personnel are prohibited from giving advance notice of an inspection except under specific circumstances. One situation where advanced notice could be given would be when an imminent hazard is present. The advanced notice is given in this circumstance to allow the employer to abate the hazard as quickly as possible.

Inspections will take place during normal business hours unless special circumstances dictate otherwise. The inspectors will identify themselves to the employer by showing their State of California Photo Identification Card and Division of Occupational Safety and Health business card.

In most cases, the inspector will ask for permission to enter the worksite and conduct the inspection. If the owner/employer or management-level personnel are not present, the inspector will attempt to contact them by telephone to inform them of the inspection. If the employer wishes to be present, the inspector may be willing to wait a reasonable amount of time (up to 1 hour) for the employer to come to the worksite. If the employer does not arrive within one hour, the inspector may initiate the inspection. If the employer refuses to consent to an inspection and denies entry/access to a premises, the inspector will treat the employer’s response as a “refusal of entry.” A refusal of entry will initiate legal action on behalf of Cal/OSHA that will probably result in a warrant being issued. It is advisable to comply with Cal/OSHA inspectors by allowing entry and permitting them to gather the information that they need.

Your Rights

You have the right to see the photo identification card carried by Cal/OSHA compliance personnel and you should exercise that right.

You have the right to accompany the Cal/OSHA inspector during most of the inspection (except during the time he/she interviews individual employees).

You have the right to refuse to give consent for the inspection, but again, refusal will result in an inspection warrant being issued, probably within hours or days. If the inspectors arrive with a warrant in hand, you cannot refuse entry.

You have the right to know the code sections that the inspector is citing as violations.

You have the right to appeal inspection findings through the Department of Industrial Relations Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.

You do not have the right to be told what triggered the inspection or the specific problem being investigated.

If the owner/employer and/or Safety Coordinator are not present, your staff should be instructed to contact them for instructions.

Frequently Observed Violations

The following are some of the most common Cal/OSHA citations issued for California businesses:

  1. Current written safety plan is incomplete or non-existent.
California is the only state which requires a written safety plan. It must be updated yearly.
  1. Food and medications commingled.
Food and beverages should be stored and consumed in an area completely separate from medications, medical instruments, and medical procedures. This includes a separate refrigerator for human food and beverages.
  1. Frayed electrical cords/too many plugs in one outlet.
Fire is one of the most common workplace hazards reported in California. Frayed electrical cords and/or overloaded electrical outlets are commonly associated with fires. Therefore, all cords should be checked at least monthly. Self-inspections should be documented in a written log. Electrical sockets should not be overloaded with an excessive number of plugs.
  1. Current Safety Data Sheets (SDS)—formerly “Material Safety Data Sheets” (MSDS).
Cal/OSHA requires that employees be able to easily access safety information about all hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Download SDSs from manufacturer websites by searching for them online. They should be printed and compiled in a binder. Fed/OSHA recently adopted a new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of classification for chemicals which manufacturers are in the process of incorporating into Safety Data Sheets. All businesses must now have GHS-compliant SDSs. Cal/OSHA also observes this system.
  1. All substances labeled.
If chemicals are transferred out of their original bottle into a secondary container (such as cleaning solutions in exam rooms), every secondary bottle must contain a secondary label with content information. Secondary labels should contain the name of the chemical as well as information about potential health risks associated with exposure to it.
  1. Continuous workplace safety program and evidence thereof.
Cal/OSHA wants to see more than written documents in a binder on the shelf. The agency’s regulations mandate active and ongoing workplace safety programs which include: ♦  A designated safety coordinator who employees can report hazards and injuries to, and who also is skilled in Fed/OSHA safety and compliance topics. ♦  Employee safety training not only for new employees, but also on an ongoing basis for current ones. Training topics should be pertinent to the risks of the business. ♦  A method for reporting accidents/injuries including a documentation system and proof of hazard correction. ♦  Log 300, which is a work-related illness and injury reporting form that is required of all businesses with more than 10 employees. All work-related injuries which result in hospitalization for more than eight hours, or deaths that occur on-the-job must be reported on it.
  1. Unsecured shelving units.
Shelving that is over five feet tall must be secured to prevent tipping. This is most commonly accomplished by the use of L-brackets screwed into the cabinet and affixed to the wall. Stacking heavy items on the lower portion of the cabinet or shelving is also recommended.
  1. Unsecured compressed gas canisters.
Compressed gas containers must be stored away from heat sources and other highly combustible materials in a well-ventilated and dry location which prevents unauthorized access. They should be protected from falling or passing objects and secured to prevent tipping, falling, or rolling. Compressed gas containers must have a protective cap when not in use.
  1. Inadequate safety self-checks and documentation.
Cal/OSHA requires periodic self-checks for purposes of hazard mitigation. They can be conducted monthly and should be documented on some form of a checklist. They should include all of the areas listed above, as well as any additional items that pose a risk of illness or injury to employees.

Information presented in this introduction was found on the Cal/OSHA website: and on the Veterinary Insurance Services Company (VISC) website:

Information presented in this introduction was found on the Cal/OSHA website: and on the Veterinary Insurance Services Company (VISC) website:

The following are acronyms used in this manual:

  • Cal/OSHA – California Division of Occupational Safety and Health
  • CCR – California Code of Regulations
  • CFR – Code of Federal Regulations
  • CVMA – California Veterinary Medical Association
  • EAP – Emergency Action Plan
  • FPP – Fire Prevention Plan
  • HCP – Hazard Communication Plan
  • HIPP – Heat Illness Prevention Plan
  • IIPP – Injury & Illness Prevention Plan
  • SDS – Safety Data Sheet

Getting Started

In the menu bar, select “Instructions” to get started on creating your customized Cal/OSHA Safety and Health program.

Warning to Readers: Limitations

The CVMA Guide to Cal/OSHA Compliance is designed to provide information that can be used by readers to facilitate compliance with the various Cal/OSHA regulations that may apply to veterinary practices. In providing this information, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is not engaged in rendering any legal, technical, or other professional service, and expressly disclaims any obligations or liabilities relating to the information provided herein. If legal or other expert assistance is required, readers should seek the advice and services of a competent professional.

Although significant effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information at the time of publication, the CVMA shall not be responsible for any errors or omissions, or any agency’s interpretation, application, or enforcement of the regulations. The CVMA also shall not be responsible for changes in applicable regulations. Readers are cautioned that regulations are subject to subsequent interpretation and change.

The forms and suggested wording of the various written programs are examples only and should not be used without careful review to ensure their applicability and completeness with respect to any particular practice.

Please remember that interpretations of the regulations may vary between agencies, enforcement branches, and officers. Moreover, laws and legal interpretations can change at any time, and such changes may affect the accuracy of the information contained in this publication. Local enforcement agencies also may have differing interpretations that are inconsistent with those of other local agencies and/or the information provided herein. You may need to modify your written safety plan to reflect not only the specific needs of your practice but also the differing interpretations set forth by your local Cal/OSHA enforcement branch.

© 2016 California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced in any form without written permission from the CVMA. Purchasers of the CVMA Guide to Cal/OSHA Compliance are granted limited license to reproduce blank forms for the sole purpose of implementing and maintaining their safety programs. Reproduction of any of the information in this publication for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited.

View and print a sample of the CVMA Cal/OSHA Safety Plan

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