Christine Baker, has been appointed chief deputy director of the Department of Industrial Relations. Formerly the executive officer of the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation, she will step into the role of Acting Director when current DIR Director John Duncan leaves at the end of this month. Baker tells Workers’ Comp Executive she will serve in the role of acting director while the full review of the mission and functions of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency is underway.
DIR oversees the Division of Workers’ Compensation and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) among other divisions, boards and commissions. Baker, whose appointment is effective immediately, says she’s excited and looking forward to her new role.
She says she’s been tasked with finding efficiencies, “reducing the boxes,” and bringing down costs within the agency. She says her experience gives her a good understanding of the department and the issues. “I know a lot of the people…and look forward to working with them,” Baker says.
Baker brings more than 20 years of experience to the post having served in other management and executive positions in DIR. She has served as the executive officer of CHSWC since its inception in 1994. Under her leadership, CHSWC has overseen copious amounts of research with a goal toward improving everything from return to work outcomes and worker safety to identifying cost drivers and creating efficiencies in the California workers’ comp system.
Prior to her role with CHSWC, she served as the chief of the Division of Labor Statistics and Research and the deputy director for the Division of Workers’ Compensation.
Outside of DIR, Baker’s expertise extends to such organizations as the National Academy of Social Insurance where she serves on the board of directors. She also serves as vice president of the executive committee for the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC).
DOSH chief Len Welsh says Baker’s selection is a “wise choice” given that she has support on both the labor and management side. “I can’t stress how important it is to get folks who have both kinds of support and are capable of finding common ground,” he says.
Baker was put forward by business interests, as a compromise with labor.
Bill Zachry, vice president of risk management for Safeway, says Baker has worked diligently on behalf of injured workers and employers. “I think she’ll do an outstanding job,” he says.
Baker says she hopes her work with CHSWC and the many ideas resulting from its research will come to fruition, citing the streamlining of injured worker benefit notices as one example. She also wants to continue going after the underground economy and make sure honest employers and workers are not harmed by the dishonesty of others.
“We want to make California the best place to do business and the best place for workers to work, that’s the goal, safely and productively,” she says.
(Filed by Bess Shapiro in Sacramento)