Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a measure that will require nearly every employer in California to have in place a workplace violence prevention plan.
The expansive new law, which takes effect July 1, 2024, will require any company with at least one worker to “establish, implement and maintain” a workplace violence prevention plan, as well as require employers to conduct annual workplace violence prevention training and to keep an incident log of violent incidents in the workplace.
The new legislation, SB 553, requires Cal/OSHA to start working on regulations to adopt a workplace violence standard. However, regardless of whether new regulations are in place or not, Cal/OSHA is authorized and required to start enforcing the new law starting July 1.
The law applies to all firms that have at least one employee, with a few exceptions:
- The health care industry, which already has its own prevention standard.
- Remote workers who work in locations the employer has no control over.
- Workplaces that are not open to the public and have fewer than 10 employees working at a given time.
- Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and law enforcement agencies.
The main thrust of the new law is the requirement that employers establish, implement and maintain an effective workplace violence prevention plan. Businesses will need to designate staff who will be responsible for the plan and get the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing it.
The main requirements include:
- Procedures for the employer to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence, and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report.
- Procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence, including:
- How to report a violent incident, threat or other workplace violence concern;
- Effective means to alert employees to the presence of a workplace violence emergency; and
- How to obtain help from staff assigned to respond and/or law enforcement.
- Procedures for responding to actual and potential workplace violence emergencies.
- Procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, including scheduled periodic inspections, and to correct any identified hazards.
- Procedures for post-incident response and investigation.
- Procedures to review and revise the plan as needed, including with the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives.
- Initial training about the plan when first established, and subsequent annual training.
The law also requires employers to create and keep:
- Records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation and correction.
- Training records.
- A violent incident log for every workplace violence incident.
- Records of workplace violence incident investigations.
The law defines workplace violence as any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a workplace, including:
- Verbal threats of violence.
- Written threats of violence.
- Incidents involving the use of a firearm or dangerous weapon regardless of whether or not an employee sustains an injury.
The law also requires employers to train their staff in the elements of their workplace violence prevention plan, including:
- The various elements of the plan (also make the plan available to all staff).
- How to report workplace violence hazards and workplace violence incidents.
- Corrective measures the employer has implemented.
- How to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence.
- Strategies to avoid physical harm.
- Information about the violent incident log and how employees can obtain a copy.
Cal/OSHA will typically create model programs or plans for employers to follow. It has not yet stated it will do so, but it likely will as it has in the past when requiring implementation of specific prevention plans.
SB 553 takes effect in the middle of 2024 and employers should start preparing for it soon to ensure compliance.