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As a consistent trend-setter in passing employee-friendly legislation, California has enacted the country’s first workplace violence prevention safety requirements applicable to nearly all employers in the state.

SB 553 requires California employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, train employees on workplace violence, and begin logging incidents by July 1, 2024.

Detailed Requirements for a Written Plan

The workplace violence prevention plan must be written, available and easily accessible to employees (as well as authorized employee representatives and Cal/OSHA representatives).

The requirements are outlined in new Labor Code Section 6401.9. Among other things, plans must include:

  • Procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees in developing and implementing the plan, and for ensuring compliance with the plan;
  • Procedures for the employer to respond to workplace violence, to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters, to evaluate and correct workplace violence hazards, to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan, and to prohibit retaliation against employees who make reports of workplace violence;
  • Procedures for developing and providing training on the plan;
  • Procedures for post-incident response and investigation; and
  • Persons responsible for administration of the plan.

Plans must be reviewed at least annually, when a deficiency is observed or becomes apparent, and after a workplace violence incident.

The plan can be a standalone document, or it can be incorporated into the employer’s IIPP.

Annual Training Requirements

Employers must provide employees with initial training when the plan is first established, annually thereafter, and when a new or previously unrecognized workplace violence hazard has been identified and when changes are made to the plan. The employee training must include information about the plan, the statutory definitions related to workplace violence, how to report workplace violence incidents or concerns, workplace violence hazards specific to employees’ job and corrective measures taken, how to seek assistance, and an opportunity for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable about the employer’s plan.

Record-Keeping Requirements

Labor Code Section 6401.9 contains several recordkeeping requirements. Records of workplace hazard identification, evaluation and correction; violent incident logs; records of workplace violence incident investigations must be retained for a minimum of five years. Records of training (the information must include training dates, contents or a summary of the training sessions, names and qualifications of those conducting the training, and names and job titles of those attending) must be retained for at least one year.

Records must be made available to Cal/OSHA and to employees and their representatives upon request.

Every workplace violence incident must be recorded in a violent incident log. At a minimum, this must include:

  • The name and job title of the person completing the log
  • The date the log was completed
  • The date, time, and location of the incident
  • A detailed description of the incident, including the context and who committed the violence
  • The type of violence
  • Consequences of the incident including whether security or law enforcement was contacted and whether actions were taken to protect employees from a continuing threat.

Cal-OSHA’s model plan includes a sample violent incident log that employers can leverage.

Coverage

Most California private sector employers are covered under the law, though a handful of exceptions exist.

Those excluded from coverage are: (1) employers already covered by California’s existing healthcare workplace violence prevention standard, (2) employees teleworking from a location of their own choice not under the employer’s control, and (3) places of employment that are not accessible to the public and where there are fewer than 10 employees working at any given time that have a compliant Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

Cal-OSHA’s Template Plan Requires Customization

Cal-OSHA recently released a template plan (here). The benefit of this template is that it clearly lays out all the components necessary to comply with Labor Code Section 6401.9 and it provides a helpful framework and considerations for employers looking to draft their own Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.

That being said, Cal-OSHA recognizes that its model template plan was written for a broad spectrum of employers; and, therefore, may not be suitable for all employers. Several sections of the model plan require employer input or merely contain examples that employers should customize for their workplaces and practices. In addition, the plan must be customized to each workplace with input from employees. Accordingly, the Cal-OSHA plan requires extensive customization to make it fit for purpose for an employer’s specific workplace, and employers should budget enough time for this process when preparing their plans.

Employers should also consider that Cal-OSHA’s template tends to lean more favorable to employees. For example, the template contains more information than is required by law (e.g., it restates recordkeeping requirements and includes a sample violent incident log) and it contains extensive violence prevention procedures, which some employers may be unable to comply with in practice.

5 Next Steps for Covered Employers

  1. Evaluate whether to build a WVPP from scratch or to leverage existing processes and procedures. Given the extensive requirements, it is generally easier to start with the model policy than an existing employer policy, and to incorporate any company-specific practices.
  2. Design and implement a training module regarding the WVPP for managers, supervisors, and individual contributors that can be rolled out at the same time that the written WVPP is distributed.
  3. Ensure that internal practices are updated as necessary to comply with the record-keeping requirements as noted above.
  4. Appoint and train workplace violence prevention administrators.
  5. Roll out a customized WVPP for each establishment by July 1, 2024—whether as a stand-alone plan or as a new section in its existing IIPP, and ensure that employees review and sign an acknowledgment form regarding the WVPP.