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California’s New Workplace Violence Prevention Law: July 1, 2024, Compliance Deadline—Are You Ready?
Thursday, May 16, 2024

The effective date of California’s Senate Bill 553 is fast approaching, and the law covers nearly every employer and every employment facility in California with the exception of healthcare facilities and other facilities governed by different legal standards, most remote workers, and businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Whether you are based in California or operate a worksite in the state with more than 10 employees, compliance is mandatory. The requirements, set forth in SB 553, are detailed and complex, establishing rules for planning, logging, and record-keeping, as well as worker training, which will all be overseen and enforced by the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (“Cal/OSHA”).

Specifically, California employers must meet four broad categories of obligations that go into effect July 1, 2024, including:

  1. The creation of a workplace violence prevention plan.
  2. The creation of a workplace violence incident log.
  3. Training requirements.
  4. Recordkeeping requirements.

The Plan. While Cal/OSHA has published a model template that is posted on the Cal/OSHA “Publications” landing page found here, this is not a “one size fits all” form—each plan must be unique to the employer’s particular worksite and must include:

  • The persons responsible for implementing the plan and their respective roles.
  • Procedures to actively involve employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan.
  • Methods for coordinating with other employers to ensure that everyone understands their respective roles, as provided in the plan.
  • Effective procedures to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence, and to prohibit retaliation.
  • Effective procedures to ensure that all employees comply with the plan.
  • Effective procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence.
  • Effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies.
  • Procedures to develop and provide training.
  • Procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, including periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and review and address employee concerns.
  • Procedures to correct workplace violence hazards identified and evaluated in a timely manner.
  • Procedures for post-incident response and investigation.
  • Procedures to review the effectiveness of the plan and revise the plan as needed.

The Log. Every incident of workplace violence must be documented, taking the following considerations into account:

  • The log record must be based on information solicited from the employees who experienced the workplace violence, witness statements, and investigation findings.
  • The log must be anonymous.
  • The log must be periodically reviewed.
  • At a multiemployer worksite, a copy of the log to the controlling employer.
  • The log must include:
      • The date, time, and location of the incident.
      • The type of violence encountered.
      • A detailed description of the incident.
      • A classification of who committed the violence.
      • A classification of circumstances at the time of the incident.
      • A classification of where the incident occurred.
      • The type of incident.
      • Consequences of the incident.
      • Information about the person completing the log.

The Training. Employers must also provide effective training to employees on hazards specific to that employer’s workplace as follows:

  • The training must occur by the July 1, 2024, effective date and annually thereafter.
  • The training must address all of the following:
      • The Company’s plan and how to access it at no cost.
      • How to participate in development and implementation of the employer’s plan.
      • The “definitions and requirements” in SB No. 553.
      • How to report workplace violence incidents or concerns to the employer or law enforcement without fear of reprisal.
      • Workplace violence hazards specific to the employees’ jobs, the corrective measures the employer has implemented, how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence, and strategies to avoid physical harm.
      • Details about the violence incident log, and how to obtain copies of records (described below).
      • An opportunity for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable about the employer’s plan.
  • As new or previously unidentified workplace violence hazards emerge, or changes to the plan are made, additional training must be provided to address new material.

The Records. The Company must also comply with certain recordkeeping obligations and retention periods as follows:

  • Records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction: 5 years.
  • Training records shall be created and maintained and include training dates, contents or a summary of the training sessions, names and qualifications of persons conducting the training, and names and job titles of all persons attending the training sessions: 1 year.
  • Violent incident logs: 5 years.
  • Records of workplace violence incident investigations: 5 years.

Records must be available not only to Cal/OSHA but also to employees or their representatives upon request, and free of charge, within 15 days of their request.

A crucial key to compliance is designating your team (or teams) responsible for creating and implementing the plan. These teams should be comprised of trusted, competent, and well-regarded members of your workforce who are capable of not only fostering trust but also managing the detailed and ongoing requirements of this new law in order to mitigate the risks of non-compliance.

If Cal/OSHA determines that a violation has occurred, it may issue a citation accompanied by a civil penalty. These penalties will vary based on the severity of the violation, the employer’s size, previous compliance history, and the demonstrated effort to comply.

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