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Preventing Violence in the Workplace

California leads the nation in efforts to prevent workplace violence.

In a historic move, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 553 creating the first general industry workplace violence prevention safety requirements in the United States. This groundbreaking legislation mandates a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) for nearly all employers in California. The required WVPP can be built into an existing injury and illness prevention plan (IIPP). Employers are required to create or adopt, implement and train employees on the WVPP.

Effective July 1, 2024, this law is likely to be a landmark legislative move, as it is the first law of its kind nationwide to be applicable across various industries. Further, there is speculation it will be used as a template for similar laws across the country in coming years. The law incorporates many aspects beginning with developing the plan in cooperation with employees and others, regular training on workplace violence hazards, procedures for each element of the prevention plan, maintaining a detailed violent incident log, and conducting regular reviews of the WVPP. The enforcement of these requirements fall under the jurisdiction of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

What is “workplace violence”?

Labor Code Section 6401.9 defines workplace violence as “any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment,” but does not include lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others.

Workplace violence specifically includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • The threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, psychological trauma, or stress, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.
  • An incident involving a threat or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, including the use of common objects as weapons, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.
  • Any of the following four types of workplace violence.

What are the Four Types of Workplace Violence?

  1. Type 1 violence: workplace violence committed by a person who has no legitimate business at the worksite and includes violent acts by anyone who enters the workplace or approaches employees with the intent to commit a crime.
  2. Type 2 violence: workplace violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or visitors.
  3. Type 3 violence: workplace violence against an employee by a present or former employee, supervisor, or manager.
  4. Type 4 violence: workplace violence committed in the workplace by a person who does not work there but has or is known to have had a personal relationship with an employee.

What are the Essential Elements of a WVPP?

  • Responsible Personnel: Designate individuals responsible for the WVPP, recommending more than one person for this role. 
  • Employee Input and Enforcement: Develop procedures for obtaining input from employees on the plan and its enforcement. 
  • Training Procedures: Establish comprehensive training procedures covering all aspects of the WVPP. 
  • Incident Reporting: Create procedures for reporting both potential and actual workplace violence incidents. 
  • Incident Investigation: Implement procedures for investigating potential workplace violence incidents and issues. 
  • Plan Implementation: Set procedures for the plan’s implementation, including periodic inspections, annual reviews, and ensuring comprehensive training for all employees. 
  • Anti-Retaliation Clause: Incorporate an anti-retaliation clause to protect employees who report workplace violence. 
  • Role Coordination: Develop procedures for coordinating roles between supervisors and management. 
  • Interdepartmental Communication: Establish communication procedures between departments or shifts, as necessary for specific job positions. 
  • Training Development: Focus on developing effective training procedures. 
  • Risk Identification: Identify environmental and other risk factors, including considerations for contingent workers, temporary staff, and remote employees. 
  • Risk Evaluation and Control Development: Create procedures for evaluating specific work-related risks (e.g., customer interactions, security roles) and developing appropriate controls, including engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment. 
  • Recordkeeping: Implement procedures for maintaining records, including workplace violence incident logs. 
  • Post-Incident Response and Investigation: Establish emergency response procedures and investigation protocols for incidents that occur. 

Employers are required to train employees on the WVPP when the program is first established, and then every year thereafter. The employee training required under the new law must cover particular subjects, allow for “interactive questions and answers,” and be in “vocabulary appropriate to the educational level, literacy, and language of the employees.” Further, as part of the training, employers also must provide employees with an opportunity for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable about the WVPP. Additional training must take place when a new or previously unrecognized workplace violence hazard has been identified and when changes are made to the WVPP for clarity, this training may be limited to addressing the new hazard or change. 

Training requirements

  • The employer’s plan, how to obtain a copy, and how to participate in development and implementation of the WVPP.
  • The definition of workplace violence and requirements of Labor Code Section 6401.9.
  • How to report workplace violence incidents to the employer or law enforcement.
  • Workplace violence hazards specific to the employer’s industry, corrective measures the employer has implemented, and strategies on how to prevent or respond to violence.
  • The violence log required by the Labor Code and how to obtain a copy.
  • An opportunity for interactive questions with a person knowledgeable about the plan.

What are employer responsibilities? Employers are required to take reasonable care to prevent and correct harassment. This includes having a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP). Key steps to demonstrating reasonable care include: Having a broadly disseminated policy. Establishing an effective complaint process. Providing regular training to ensure employees and supervisors and managers. Understand their rights and responsibilities. Monitoring the workplace to ensure adherence to the employer’s policy.

To help California employers meet this new regulation, and other employers throughout the country, NSC has updated its Workplace Violence Training Program to include the following:

  • Impact of Workplace Violence
  • Types of Workplace Violence
  • OSHA and State Requirements for Workplace Violence (*NEW)
  • Developing a Written Workplace Violence Plan (*NEW)
  • Risk Factors for Workplace Violence
  • Warning Signs of Workplace Violence
  • Preventing/Reducing Workplace Violence
  • Response Actions
  • Training Employees on Workplace Violence (*NEW)

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