The California Department of Industrial Relations announced earlier this month that Ellen Widess had resigned effective immediately from her position as Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. No specific reason was given for her resignation, according to the California OSHA Blog.
Widess was seen by employers as fostering a divisive atmosphere in California’s safety and health community, seeking to punish “bad” employers while doing little to encourage good ones. A strong supporter of Fed/OSHA Chief Dr. David Michaels, Widess followed his lead in seeking changes to California’s VPP-Construction program which were intended to eliminate current members from the program and to discourage construction contractors from seeking VPP certification, according to the California OSHA Blog.
Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), subsequently announced that Juliann Sum will serve as the Acting Chief of Cal/OSHA. Sum will head the Division of Occupational Safety and Health following the resignation of Widess. Cal/OSHA is a division of DIR.
Sum has worked for over 26 years to help workers understand and exercise their legal rights through numerous educational materials, training workshops, and consultation with legal aid groups that assist low-wage and immigrant workers. She joined DIR in May 2012 as a Special Advisor to Director Baker. Sum served at UC Berkeley from 1994 to 2012 as Project Director with the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and Consulting Attorney and Industrial Hygienist with the Labor Occupational Health Program. Her extensive experience includes work as an Associate Attorney with the Environmental Law Foundation and Industrial Hygienist and Business Representative with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245.
Sum earned a law degree (with honors) from UC Hastings College of the Law, a Master of Science degree in environmental health sciences from the Harvard School of Public Health, and a Bachelor of Science degree in biophysics from Brown University.
“Juliann’s focus will be on prevention – strong enforcement, compliance, outreach and education,” said DIR Director Christine Baker. “I thank Ellen for her dedicated service and look forward to her knowledgeable advice in her new role. I am confident that Juliann’s extensive background and experience will further the Administration’s commitment to a comprehensive Cal/OSHA program.”
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) protects and improves the health, safety, and economic well-being of over 18 million wage earners and helps their employers comply with state labor laws. Cal/OSHA, a division of DIR, protects workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California through its enforcement, consultation, and research and standards programs. Information on Cal/OSHA’s workplace health and safety standards is available on our website, Facebook and Twitter.
SOURCE California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA