In September 2023, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 553 (SB 553) into law, the first of its kind in the nation. The new law requires nearly all California employers to implement a workplace violence prevention plan by July 1, 2024. This groundbreaking legislation ushers in a new era of workplace safety and violence prevention, not exclusive to just California either.
Workplace violence prevention policies and programs for both public and private sectors aren’t always required of employers. While the programs may leverage official standards, such as those set by the Society of Human Resource Management, ASIS, the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI, they act as merely guidance to prevent violence in the workplace.
In the case of California, the legislature mandated that companies with a presence in the state have a detailed workplace violence prevention plan. If this applies to your organization and you’re unsure how to design and implement a fully compliant violence prevention plan, keep reading to learn more:
What does SB 553 entail, and why should it matter to you?
In essence, SB 553 requires all California employers (with 10 or more employees on site) to develop a comprehensive written workplace violence prevention plan, provide tailored workplace violence prevention training, and maintain a log of violent incidents – all by July 1, 2024. Companies that are not in compliance can be cited by the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration (Cal/OSHA), and violations will include civil penalties and misdemeanors.
Let’s break down the key components of this game-changing legislation:
Defining Workplace Violence
Workplace violence isn’t just about physical altercations. It includes any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or disruptive behavior that jeopardizes the safety and well-being of employees. These types of workplace violence are not limited to those committed by co-workers; they include customers, visitors, contractors, family members and even “outsiders” with no connection to the company. This encompasses everything from verbal abuse to active shooter scenarios.
SB 553 Requirements
The heart of SB 553 lies in the creation of a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP). Key elements include:
- Identifying responsible personnel
- Involving employees in plan development
- Identifying, evaluating and correcting hazards
- Coordinating plan implementation
- Reporting incidents internally and to law enforcement
- Communicating effectively with employees
- Responding to workplace violence emergencies
- Training employees
- Strict recordkeeping guidelines
- Post-incident response and investigation
- Regular plan review and updates
- Procedures to ensure compliance with the WVPP
Recommendations for Employers
Establishing and implementing a workplace safety plan proactively is likely going to be the most effective approach, regardless of whether SB 553 affects your organization or not. Employers should prioritize workplace safety in an intentional effort to protect their employees, customers, company and reputation. And for those impacted by the legislation in California, compliance is no longer an option. Here are some practical recommendations from our team:
Early Compliance: Businesses that must abide by SB 553 should adopt a violence prevention plan before the July 1, 2024 deadline to ensure seamless compliance and avoid last-minute scrambling.
Customized Training: Especially if your organization has never developed or leveraged a workplace safety policy, we recommend engaging subject-matter experts to help build and deliver a training curriculum tailored to your organization’s needs (for example, an on-site session might be best for your team; alternatively, a series of virtual trainings might better fit your needs). Use this dedicated training time to define workplace violence, identify warning signs, and emphasize prevention and response.
Vulnerability Assessment: Conduct an on-site vulnerability assessment to detect internal and external threats. This includes evaluating a facility’s layout, security measures and existing plans.
Continuous Vigilance: While it would be easier, workplace violence prevention is not an item to check off your list and move on – it’s an ongoing, intentional process that demands employers and employees alike stay vigilant. SB 553 requires regular review and updates to your WVPP, ensuring it evolves with your organization’s needs.
Proactive prevention is a best practice
Whether your business is in California or any other state, taking a proactive stance on violence prevention is a best practice for all employers. Workplace safety must be recognized as more than just a legal requirement. When that happens, safer work environments can exist.
If you need assistance with SB 553 compliance or initiating a workplace violence prevention program, the Sikich workforce risk management team is comprised of seasoned experts with deep experience in hands-on support focused on protecting people and organizations. Please note, too, that the new California law has 13 required components with varying levels of specificity; however, there are currently no templates or procedures to guide employers, making this all the more difficult to adopt.
Sikich offers a number of solutions specifically designed to assist organizations with SB 553 compliance. Our suite of workforce risk management advisory services includes a full circle of support in assessing and developing proactive violence prevention policies, programs and training. Let’s work together toward a safer, more secure workplace for everyone.