California has enacted new laws requiring employers to adopt policies and procedures to address workplace violence.
The law covers all employers except: 1) certain health care facilities; 2) certain law enforcement and correctional facilities; 3) employees teleworking from a location of the employee’s choice, which is not under the control of the employer; and 4) places of employment with fewer than 10 employees working at any given time, and that are not accessible to the public.
1. Implementing a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan
A cornerstone of the new law is the requirement for employers to develop a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP). Covered employers must establish, implement and maintain an “effective” written workplace violence prevention plan. Minimum requirements for such plan include:
- identification (name, title) of individuals responsible for implementing and maintaining the workplace violence prevention plan;
- procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees in developing, implementing and reviewing the plan;
- procedures for the employer to respond to workplace violence and to prohibit retaliation against employees who report it;
- procedures for ensuring compliance with the plan;
- procedures for communicating with employees regarding workplace violence matters, including how employees can report incidents, how employee concerns will be investigated, and how employees will be informed of the results of the investigation and any corrective actions; and
- procedures for obtaining assistance from the appropriate law enforcement agency.
The plan is to be available and easily accessible to employees, authorized employee representatives and representatives of the division at all times.
2. Comprehensive Employee Training
Training is a critical component of the new law. Employers must provide initial and annual training covering:
- An overview of the WVPP and employee participation.
- Detailed explanations of the law’s definitions and requirements.
- Protocols for reporting incidents without fear of retaliation.
- Information on specific workplace hazards and corrective measures.
- Guidance on seeking assistance in violence prevention and response.
- Access to the violent incident log and related records.
Employers are required to provide training when their workplace violence prevention plans are first established and annually thereafter. Therefore, employers are expected to ensure that employees are trained by July 1, 2024.
3. New Recordkeeping Requirements
In addition to developing and implementing a workplace violence prevention plan, covered employers must also “record information in a violence incident log” about every incident, post-incident response and any workplace violation injury investigation performed in accordance with the workplace violence prevention plan.
Information that is recorded in the log for each incident shall be based on the information solicited from the employees who experienced the workplace violence, including:
- date, time and location of the incident;
- workplace violence type(s) (i.e., type of physical attack, if it involved a weapon, threat of physical violence, sexual assault, animal attack, or other);
- detailed description of the incident;
- classification of who committed the violence (i.e., client, customer, family, friend, stranger, supervisor, etc.);
- classification of circumstances at the time of the incident (i.e., whether the employee was completing usual job duties, working in a poorly lit area, rushed, working alone, etc.);
- consequences of the incident (i.e., whether security or law enforcement was contacted, and response); and
- information about the person completing the log (name, job title, date).
The employer must omit any element of personal identifying information sufficient to allow identification of any person involved in a violent incident. These records must be maintained for at least five years and produced to Cal/OSHA upon request.
Conclusion: Preparing for Compliance
The enactment of SB 553 marks a significant shift in California’s approach to workplace safety, particularly concerning violence prevention. For employers, this means adapting to a new regulatory landscape that demands diligent planning, comprehensive training, meticulous record-keeping, and a proactive stance on employee safety. By understanding and effectively implementing the provisions of this law, employers can not only ensure compliance but also foster a safer, more secure work environment for all.
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