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How to Comply With California’s New Workplace Violence Prevention Plan Requirement (SB 553)

December 8th, 2023 | 6 min. read

By Tony Calavitta

How to Comply With California’s New Workplace Violence Prevention Plan Requirement (SB 553)

How many headlines have you seen reporting an incident of workplace violence? Because news outlets tend to focus only on major incidents, probably not too many. With this in mind, you’d think that it is a pretty uncommon occurrence, right?

In reality, workplace violence, defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at work,” happens a lot more often than many realize.

In fact, each year an average of nearly 2 million U.S. workers report having been a victim of violence at work, with incident occurrence rising across workplaces nationwide since 2012.

To combat startling numbers like these, California has passed a new law, Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) that is postured to reshape workplace safety standards and prioritize workplace violence prevention. With it, nearly every employer statewide needs to prepare to comply with the criteria of SB 553 by the effective date of July 1st, 2024.

So, here's the question: Are you ready to make the necessary changes to your safety policies and implement them in your workplace?

Here at Combined, we are here to help guide you toward easy compliance with this new legal requirement.

In this article, we'll explore:

  • the specifics of SB 553
  • what it means for you as an employer
  • and steps you can take to comply with this new requirement

By the end of this read, you'll be equipped with the information you need to not only comply with SB 553 but to set a new, better standard for workplace safety within your company.

Overview of SB 553 – California's Commitment to Workplace Safety

In a bold move to redefine workplace safety, California has introduced SB 553 to impact how businesses approach violence prevention. SB 553 isn't just a legislative change - it's a clear statement of California's commitment to creating safer work environments.

What is SB 553?

SB 553 is a comprehensive law that requires employers in the state, with few exceptions, to implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan. This type of plan is designed to identify, address, and mitigate the risks of violence in the workplace, ensuring that workplace safety is not just an afterthought but a key priority.

How will SB 553 impact employers?

The introduction of SB 553 marks a shift towards proactive workplace safety standards. By placing a larger focus on violence prevention, the law aims to reduce incidents of workplace violence.

The value SB 553 brings to California employers lies in its potential to build a culture of safety and awareness in the workplace. While it does bring a new set of compliance rules for employers to follow, it can also render a workplace environment where every aspect of safety is understood, scrutinized, and improved.

In a way, this new law allows employers to step up and play a larger role in safeguarding their teams.

Want more information on all of 2024's most critical compliance updates?

Download our free compliance guide or watch our latest recorded webinar hosted by legal expert, Jason T. Yu, Partner with the law offices of Snell and Wilmer, for a complete breakdown of California's recent regulation changes. 

How to implement your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan – 5 steps to compliance with SB 553

Complying with SB 553 begins with understanding and implementing a structured approach.

Here are five essential steps to guide you through this process, ensuring your workplace not only meets the legal requirements but also becomes a safer environment.

1. Create a written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

The foundation of compliance with SB 553 is developing a cohesive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan to serve as a blueprint for your company’s approach to workplace safety.

This plan should be a written document, easily accessible to all employees, and must include the following components:

A system for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards

As part of your written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan, you need to establish how to identify potential sources of workplace violence. This system should be able to evaluate different types of workplace settings and scenarios and assess the level of risk they pose.

A framework to correct unsafe or unhealthy conditions

With this system in place, you also need clear steps to take to address and correct any identified risks.

A comprehensive occupational health and safety training program

You’ll also need to design a training program that educates employees about safe and healthy work practices. This program should be tailored to mitigate hazards within your specific workplace and include actionable strategies to not only prevent violent incidents but also to respond in the case that they occur.

A strategy to uphold compliance with safe work practices

To ensure that employees adhere to your safety policies, you need to outline an approach to make sure these rules are strictly followed. This may involve disciplinary measures but should focus on positive reinforcement and continuous education.

A set of instructions for effective plan implementation

For your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan to be compliant, practical, and effective, you must also establish clear procedures for:

  • Employee participation – An inclusive process to actively involve employees in the development and execution of your safety plan.

  • Incident reporting – A confidential and non-retaliatory method for employees to report incidents.

  • Employee communication – A structured way to discuss workplace violence and safety matters with employees.

  • Incident investigation – A comprehensive and standardized process for incident investigation.

  • Emergency response – A thorough response process for emergency and post-incident situations.

2. Incorporate Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) requirements into your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

Alignment with California’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) is critical to compliance with SB 553.

The IIPP requirements that should be integrated into your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan include the following:

A system to communicate health and safety matters

You need to establish a system to effectively communicate occupational safety and health matters with your employees. This could involve regular meetings, training sessions, or written communications.

Regular hazard inspections

You need to conduct periodic inspections to identify new or previously unrecognized hazards, particularly when introducing new substances, processes, equipment, or procedures into your workplace.

Accessible injury and illness reports

You need to provide employees with the opportunity to review copies of workplace injury and illness reports. To comply, you should make sure that these reports are available no later than five business days after an employee requests access.

3. Conduct consistent employee training on your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan policies and procedures

Under SB 553, Employee training is an essential element to the successful implementation of a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.

Here are the key aspects of effective employee training:

  • Training must be conducted when your plan is first implemented and on an annual basis, thereafter, ensuring all employees, including new hires, are well-informed about your safety strategies.

  • The content of this training should fully cover the details of your written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan including the definitions and requirements of SB 553, your methods for reporting and investigating incidents, and all specific hazards relevant to the workplace.

  • Your employee training sessions should be facilitated by individuals knowledgeable about your plan and should include interactive learning techniques aimed at engaging employees like Q&A sessions, role-playing, or discussions.

  • Training should continuously be adapted to include any new workplace hazards.

4. Keep a record of all violent incidents that occur in your workplace

Recording any and all incidents of workplace violence is a crucial requirement under SB 553.

This step is not only about compliance but also about understanding the patterns and nature of violence in your workplace to better prevent future incidents.

Here's what you need to know about maintaining a violent incident log:

  • Record every violent incident, ensuring no occurrence is overlooked.

  • This record should include details like the incident's date, time, location, and a credible description of what occurred from a witness. It should also define the type of incident that occurred and the classification of the offender, whether it's a customer, co-worker, or someone else.

  • To protect the privacy and confidentiality of those involved, this record should never include personal identifying details such as a name, address, email, phone number, or Social Security number.

  • The record, however, should include the name and job title of the person making the log entry, along with the date it was completed.

5. Properly maintain your records

As part of the requirements of SB 553, effective record-keeping plays a crucial role in the management of workplace violence prevention.

To comply, you are required to maintain records of all identified hazards and their resolution for a minimum of five years, preserve training records for at least one year, and keep records of all violent incidents and investigations for no less than one year.

These records also need to be accessible to:

  • Cal/OSHCA upon request
  • Employees or employee representatives within 15 days of a request

This diligent approach to documentation not only ensures compliance with SB 553 but also acts as a key resource for continuously improving workplace safety measures.

Next steps to implementing your SB 553 compliant Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

Now that you know all about the requirements of SB 553 and the importance of having a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan in place, it's time to think about the next steps (After all, the July 1st, 2024, compliance deadline is not far out).

So, here's the question (again): Are you ready to make the necessary changes to your safety policies and implement them in your workplace?

Here at Combined, our HR experts are ready to help you accomplish this with ease and move into 2024 without compliance concerns.

Schedule a meeting with an HR specialist for step-by-step assistance with creating your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan and expert guidance at implementing it.

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This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.