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California’s Workplace Violence Prevention Law - Putting the pieces together

On September 30, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 553 into law, establishing a first of its kind requirement that will apply to nearly all California employers. Employers will now have to have a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (“WVPP”) in place by July 1, 2024.

It is actually easier to explain who is not covered under the new; 1. If you are already covered under the Workplace Violence Healthcare Standard Cal/OSHA 3342; 2. Department of Corrections and Law enforcement agencies; 3 Businesses with fewer than 10 employees that do not meet with the public.

What does the WVPP require?

To meet the new law’s requirements, employers will have to create, implement and maintain an effective workplace violence prevention plan that includes:

  1. Identifying who is responsible for implementing the plan

  2. Involving employees and their representatives

  3. Accepting and responding to reports of workplace violence

  4. Communicating with employees regarding workplace violence matters

  5. Responding to actual and potential emergencies

  6. Developing and providing effective training

  7. Identifying, evaluating, and correcting workplace violence hazards

  8. Performing post incident response and investigations

What to Expect

Without trying to sound too dramatic, SB553 is going to place a significant burden on organizations that do not take the prevention of violence seriously. As a backdrop, Cal/OSHA has been reinvigorated in its violence prevention role and it would not be surprising to see more investigations. The horrific workplace murders in Half Moon Bay resulted in multiple citations being issued by the regulatory agency. This could provide an insight of what to expect from a Cal/OSHA accountability perspective.

  1. Preparing for the new law is going to require a multi-disciplinary approach. While the language of the law states that the person responsible must be identified, this is much more than a one-person job.

  2. You will have to develop a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan that is either part of your existing IIPP or is a standalone document. (we suggest making it stand alone)

  3. Employees have to be involved in the development process. It will not meet the intentions of the law to write the policy and then simply send it out to employees for acknowledgment.

  4. You may have to explore technology to find tools and systems that allow you to quickly notify your staff in the event of a workplace emergency.

  5. You will have to develop a process for conducting hazard assessment's, tracking mitigation efforts and keeping staff informed.

  6. While not specifical called out in the law, you will need a behavioral threat assessment process, at a minimum.

  7. Off the shelf, canned training is not going to work for this annual requirement. Your employees have to be given the chance to ask questions and must be explained any hazards that are specific to their jobs. The person giving the training is going to have to know about Workplace Violence and your organization's efforts to prevent occurrences.

  8. You are going to have to keep a log of violent incidents that is specific on what happened, the nature of the violence and still maintain confidentiality.

  9. You will have to keep detailed records of all these activities.

  10. And lastly, you have to be fully in compliance by July 1, 2024

Workplace Violence according to SB553

“Workplace violence” means any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment, that includes, but is not limited to:

  1. The threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, psychological trauma, or stress (regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury)

  2. Incident involving a threat or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, including use of common objects as weapons (regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury

Types of Workplace Violence

As mentioned earlier, SB553 applies to almost all California Businesses. It’s going to be critically important to understand the different types of violence and the associated risk factors.

Type 1 – Violence committed by a person who has no legitimate business at the worksite, including violent acts by anyone who enters w/ intent to commit a crime

Type 2 – Violence Directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or visitors

Type 3 - Violence against employees by current or former employees, supervisors, or managers

Type 4 - Violence committed in a workplace by someone who does not work there but who has or had a personal relationship w/ an employee.

Getting Started

Fortunately, many of the requirements contained in the bill have been recognized as best practices for some time. There are also several organizations that you can leverage as a resource including:

What needs to be in the written plan?

I cannot stress the importance of not relying on an "off the shelf" template. Developing your own plan is going to require exploring and understanding your unique vulnerabilities and current mitigation efforts. SB553 does an outstanding job of detailing what you need to do but leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to specific guidance on HOW to meet the requirements.

  1. Names or job titles of persons responsible for implementing and maintaining the Plan

  2. Effective procedures to obtain active involvement of employees and unions.

  3. Methods Employer will use to coordinate implementation of the Plan w/ other employers

  4. Effective procedures to accept and respond to reports of WPV and to prohibit retaliation against employees who makes such reports.

  5. Procedures to ensure supervisory and nonsupervisory employees comply with the Plan

  6. Procedures to communicate w/ employees regarding workplace violence matters.

    1. How an employee can report a violent incident, threat, or other workplace violence concern to the employer or law enforcement without fear of reprisal.

    2. How employee concerns will be investigated and how employees will be informed of the results of the investigation and any corrective actions to be taken.

  7. Effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies.

    1. Effective means to alert employees of the presence, location, and nature of workplace violence emergencies.

    2. Evacuation or sheltering plans that are appropriate and feasible for the worksite.

    3. How to obtain help from staff assigned to respond to workplace violence emergencies, if any, security personnel, if any, and law enforcement.

  8. Procedures to develop and provide the required training

  9. Procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, including, but not limited to, scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices and employee reports and concerns. Inspections shall be conducted when the plan is first established, after each workplace violence incident, and whenever the employer is made aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard.

  10. Procedures to correct workplace violence hazards

  11. Procedures for post incident response and investigation

  12. Procedures to review effectiveness of the Plan and revise it as needed.

Violent Incident Log

Employers shall record information in a Violent Incident Log for every workplace violence incident. The log shall include the following information:

  1. The date, time, & location of incident

  2. Classification of who committed the violence (4 types of Violence)

  3. Classification of circumstances at the time of the incident

  4. Classification of where the incident occurred

  5. Type of incident (nature of the violence)

  6. Consequences of the incident (who was called, protective actions taken)

  7. Information about the person completing the Log

WPV Training

Employers will have to provide training when the Plan is first established and then annually thereafter. 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 (may cover just the new hazard or changes). An opportunity for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable about the employer’s plan. The training must cover:

  1. The Plan, how to obtain a copy and how employees can participate in development

  2. Definitions and requirements of the law

  3. How to report incidents or concerns to Employer or law enforcement

  4. workplace hazards specific to employees’ jobs ‒ Corrective measures Employer has implemented

  5. How to seek assistance to prevent and/or respond to violence

  6. Strategies to avoid physical harm

  7. The violent incident log and how to obtain copies of record

WPV Recordkeeping

  1. Maintain Records of Hazard Identification and Correction for 5 years

  2. Maintain Violent Incident Logs for 5 years

  3. Maintain Training Records for 1 year

  4. Maintain Incident Investigations for 5 years

Important Note: Except for investigations, records must be made available to employees and their representatives upon request within 15 calendar days.

About the Author

Hector R. Alvarez is a nationally recognized security expert who specializes in workplace violence prevention. He is recognized as Certified Threat Manager™ by the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals. He holds an MS in Forensic Psychology with ongoing research and practical experience. He has built over 30 years of workplace violence, behavioral threat assessment, domestic terrorism and crisis management experience serving as a Security Director protecting one of our nation's most sensitive critical infrastructures to working as a city Police Officer and as a professional security consultant.

Important note: The information contained in this article is not legal advice and may not address all the specific requirements of the law. This information is intended to provide a general overview. We strongly recommend that if you have any questions you consult with your own legal counsel.

Alvarez Associates LLC | Folsom, CA 95630 | 916-293-8852


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