According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), workplace violence is the second leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States, affecting nearly 2 million American workers annually. SB 553 addresses workplace violence by requiring employers to implement basic protections to protect employees while at work. Effective July 1, 2024, SB 553 will require virtually every California employer to implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. The new law does not have an implementation grace period.

California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553), which was signed into law on September 30, 2023, amended Labor Code section 6401.7 to require employers to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan in accordance with newly codified Labor Code section 6401.9, which sets out the requirements for the plan. “Workplace violence” is defined as “any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, psychological trauma, or stress, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.

Starting July 1, 2024, California employers must establish, implement, and maintain a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (which can be included in the IIPP or standalone) that includes:

  • Prohibiting employee retaliation.
  • Accepting and responding to reports of workplace violence.
  • Employee workplace violence training and communication.
  • Emergency response.
  • Workplace violence hazard assessments.
  • Other requirements, such as maintaining a Violent Incident Log.

Who is covered?  

All California employees and employers are covered by SB 533 with the following notable exemptions:  

  • Places of employment where less than 10 employees are working at any given time, and the location is not accessible by the public. The location must also be in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard which requires a safe and healthy office space.  
  • Employees teleworking from a location of their choice that is not under the employer’s control. *  
  • Healthcare facilities already covered by Cal/OSHA’s Workplace Violence in Healthcare Standard. 
  • Law enforcement agencies and several other facilities outlined by SB 553.  

Creating a workplace violence prevention plan:

Labor Code section 6401.9 outlines the elements of a workplace violence prevention plan required by section 6401.7:

  • Every covered employer is required to establish, implement, and maintain an effective workplace violence prevention plan.
  • The plan needs to include, among other things, the following:
    • The names of persons responsible for its implementation.
    • Effective procedures for employee involvement in developing and implementing the plan.
    • Methods to coordinate implementation of the plan with other employers, when applicable.
    • Procedures for employers to handle and respond to reports of workplace violence, while ensuring no retaliation against the reporting employee.
    • Procedures to ensure compliance from employees, including supervisors. Procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters.
    • Emergency response protocols.
    • Training provisions.
    • Procedures to timely correct workplace violence hazards identified and evaluated.
    • Procedures for post-incident response and investigation.
  • The plan must be in effect at all times and in all work areas and be specific to the hazards and corrective measures for each work area and operation.
  • The written plan may be incorporated as a standalone section in the written injury and illness prevention program required by investigation findings or be in a separate document.
  • The incident report will include information relating to the date, time, location of incident, detailed description, circumstances at the time, the consequences of the incident including any involvement law enforcement, and the steps taken to protect employees from further threat or hazards. It will be signed and dated with the name and title of the person completing the report.
  • Employers must exclude personal identifying information that would identify any person involved in a violent incident.

Annual Trainings and Reporting:

Moving forward, employers in California will need to provide training at the time of hire and on an annual basis. *While the law exempts remote employees, a best practice is to involve all employees in the training, as a primary objective of the law is to proactively determine workplace violence hazards prior to a violent incident occurring.

Additionally, certain training records must be maintained for one to five years, depending on the type of record. The required training also must be conducted when the plan is first established and annually thereafter and for new hires. Additional training must be provided when a new or previously unrecognized workplace violence hazard has been identified and when changes are made to the plan.

The initial training must include:

  • The employer’s plan, how to obtain a copy of the employer’s plan at no cost, and how to participate in development and implementation of the employer’s plan.  
  • Training for managers and all employees.
  • How to report workplace violence incidents or concerns to the employer or law enforcement.
  • Workplace violence hazards specific to employees’ jobs, corrective measures the employer has implemented, how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence, and strategies to avoid physical harm.
  • The violent incident log and how to obtain copies of required records.
  • An opportunity for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable about the employer’s plan.

Finally, employers must create and maintain training records for a minimum of one year, and the following records must be maintained for a minimum of five years:

  • Records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation and correction.
  • Violent incident logs.
  • Records of workplace violence incident investigations.

Employers must make required records available to Cal/OSHA, and records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, correction, training records and violent incident logs must be made available to employees upon request.

The employment law attorneys at Schneiders & Associates, LLP, are available to answer your questions and assist you in developing and implementing your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan. Contact us today to learn more about SB 553 and how we can help you comply with the new requirements. Together, let’s prioritize workplace safety and protect your most valuable asset – your employees.”

By: Sharvani Navangul

The post Protect Your Workplace, Protect Your Employees: Implement SB 553 Now! California’s New SB 553 Requires Workplace Violence Policy by July 1, 2024 appeared first on Schneiders & Associates, LLP.