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Untangling California’s Workplace Violence Prevention Law SB553 - Addressing a few hot button questions

June 22, 2024

Whatever your thoughts are on the recently signed Bill the deadline for compliance is rapidly approaching.  Almost every California employer reading this post will have to comply by July 1, 2024.   Unfortunately, the rush towards compliance has caused some organizations to lose sight of the real goal, developing an effective prevention program.  Another challenge has been a deluge of ineffective, questionable or simply wrong interpretation of how to get your organization ready.  I have highlighted some of these issues below and given my opinion on the individual items.  As always feel free to reach out if you have any questions.


1.     We followed Cal/OSHA’s (or somebody else’s) model Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.  We should be in compliance, correct?


MIXED - The model plan provided by Cal/OSHA is a solid list of issues that employers should use to evaluate and develop their own plan. It’s very clear both in the language of SB553 and information provided by Cal/OSHA that these plans should reflect your organization's specific hazards and mitigation efforts.  It’s also important to highlight that the model plan clearly states that following the model plan does not ensure compliance.  I recommend focusing on the effectiveness of your violence prevention program and the compliance piece will fall into place.


2.     True or False, Animal Attacks, including dog bites, are now to be considered acts of workplace violence?


TRUE – The definition of workplace violence contained in SB553 does not specifically call out animal attacks, however, it is listed as a type of violence in the required Violent Incident Log.  Cal/OSHA’s fact sheet also includes animal attacks as a type of workplace violence.  


3.     True or False, Cal/OSHA has not given guidance on the specific training requirements of the law so it’s probably best to wait until they publish their standard before you start training your employees?


FALSE – Even before SB553 was signed into law, California employers had an obligation to protect their employees from recognized hazards.  SB553 has specific guidance on what should be included in the training and how the training should be provided.  Ignoring this requirement would likely increase both the threat of violence to your employees and the exposure to regulatory scrutiny and fines.


4.     True or False, only the Workplace Violence Prevention Plan element of SB553 must be completed by July 1st, employers have up to a year to complete employee training?


FALSE - Unless there is a last-minute change (which I don’t anticipate) the deadline for completing all elements of SB553 is July 1st 2024.


5.     SB553 Only applies to organizations with 20 or more employees?


FALSE - This confusion most likely comes from text in SB553 that reference section 6401.7 regarding the Injury and Illness Plan. Listed below are the workplaces that may be exempt. Cal/OSHA can require any employer to comply with the law.


·      Places of employment not publicly accessible, with < 10 employees present at once that comply w/ IIPP.

·      Facilities covered by Cal/OSHA’s Violence Prevention in Health Care, Section 3342 of Title 8 California COR;

·      Facilities operated by the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

·      Law enforcement agencies; and

·      Some Teleworking employees.


6.     The required workplace violence prevention training can be delivered through an e-learning course, correct? 


MIXED – The current language of SB553 states that the training must be interactive, should review hazards specific to employee's job activities and steps the organization is doing to address these hazards.  The training should be provided at an education level, literacy and language comfortable with the learner.  Lastly, there must be an opportunity for questions and answers with a person knowledgeable on the Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.  There are certainly e-learning courses that can be adapted to meet these requirements, but careful consideration should be given to using an “off-the-shelf” course.   


About the Author

Hector is a nationally recognized security expert who specializes in workplace violence prevention. His professional career and academic journey have been focused on the development and support of corporate threat assessment and violence prevention programs.  He has built over 30 years’ experience working as a Security Director protecting one of our nation's most sensitive critical infrastructures, a city Police Officer and as a professional security consultant. 


He understands the challenges organizations face when addressing threats of violence because he has responded to thousands of potentially violent workplace situations and has helped hundreds of organizations build their own workplace violence prevention programs.  Hector has been called to provide litigation support in multiple high-profile incidents of workplace violence. As a California based consultant, he was active in the development of Cal/OSHA’s healthcare focused Workplace Violence Prevention standard and has already started preparing organizations for SB553 implementation.

He holds a BS in Criminal Justice and a MS in Forensic Psychology.  He is recognized by the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals as a Certified Threat Manager™ and is the Sgt. at Arms for the Northern CA Chapter of ATAP. He attended Gavin DeBecker’s Advanced Threat Assessment Academy and is also a certified instructor in Mental Health First Aid.  He is frequently called upon as a guest speaker and keynote presenter.


Important note: The information in this article should not be considered legal advice and may not address every specific requirement of the applicable laws. 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.


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