New Law Mandates Workplace Violence Prevention Plans in California

In a significant step towards enhancing workplace safety, California has enacted Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) to curb workplace violence. Recognizing the urgency of the issue, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies workplace violence as the second leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. Nearly 2 million American workers are affected annually, highlighting the need for robust preventive measures.

Understanding Senate Bill 553

Signed into law on September 30, 2023, SB 553 mandates that employers develop and implement comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plans (WVPP) by July 1, 2024. This legislation amends Labor Code section 6401.7 and introduces new requirements under Labor Code section 6401.9. The law applies to most employers in California, except those specifically exempted.

Key requirements for employers

Employers must establish a WVPP that includes:

  • Prohibition of retaliation. Ensuring no employee faces retaliation for reporting workplace violence.
  • Incident reporting and response. Setting up procedures to accept and respond to workplace violence reports.
  • Employee training and communication. Providing ongoing training and clear communication channels about workplace violence.
  • Emergency response protocols: Preparing for quick and effective responses to violent incidents.
  • Regular hazard assessments. Conducting regular checks to identify and mitigate workplace violence hazards.
  • Violent incident log. Keeping a detailed log of all workplace violence incidents, regardless of whether they result in injury.

Detailed elements of the WVPP

The WVPP must cover:

  • Responsible individuals. Designating persons responsible for implementing the plan.
  • Employee involvement. Creating procedures for employee participation in developing and implementing the plan.
  • Coordination. Methods for coordinating the plan with other employers when necessary.
  • Reporting procedures. Handling and responding to reports without retaliating against the reporting employee.
  • Compliance measures. Ensuring all employees, including supervisors, adhere to the plan.
  • Communication. Keeping employees informed about workplace violence matters.
  • Emergency response. Detailed protocols for emergencies.
  • Training provisions. Providing comprehensive training on workplace violence prevention.
  • Hazard identification and evaluation. Regular inspections and evaluations to identify new hazards.
  • Post-incident procedures. Protocols for responding to and investigating violent incidents.
  • Plan review. Regular reviews and updates to the plan, particularly after an incident or when deficiencies are noted.

Maintaining a violent incident log

Employers must log all workplace violence incidents, including:

  • Date, time, and location.
  • Type of violence (categorized as Type 1, 2, 3, and/or 4).
  • Detailed description and circumstances.
  • Identification of the perpetrator.
  • Incident characteristics, such as physical attacks or threats.
  • Consequences and preventative measures taken.
  • Information on the person completing the log.

To protect privacy, personal identifying information must be excluded.

Comprehensive training for employees

Employers are required to provide training that is understandable and accessible to all employees. Training should cover:

  • An overview of the WVPP and how to access it.
  • Definitions and legal requirements of Labor Code section 6401.9.
  • Reporting procedures without fear of retaliation.
  • Job-specific violence hazards and preventive measures.
  • Purpose and access to the violent incident log.
  • Opportunities for interactive discussions about the plan.

Additional training is required when new hazards are identified or the plan is updated.

Recordkeeping responsibilities

Employers must maintain records for:

  • The written WVPP, accessible to employees and Cal/OSHA representatives.
  • Hazard identification, evaluation, and correction records for at least five years.
  • Training records for at least one year.
  • Violent incident logs and investigation records for at least five years.

Additional information and resources

Employers are legally obligated to report serious injuries, illnesses, or deaths (including those resulting from workplace violence) to Cal/OSHA immediately, as stipulated by title 8, section 342(a). Additional relevant regulations include:

  • Section 342: Reporting Work-Connected Fatalities and Serious Injuries.
  • Section 3203: Injury and Illness Prevention.
  • Section 14300: Employer Records-Log 300.

The guide to recordkeeping requirements can be found here.

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