Mandatory Workplace Violence Prevention Plans Now Required
Posted on October 24, 2023
Responding to a concerning rise in workplace violence incidents, California has implemented SB 553, a new law that mandates all employers, with few exceptions, to create and maintain detailed workplace violence prevention plans (“WVPP”) by July 1, 2024. This development, captured under Labor Code Section 6401.9, presents a significant challenge for California employers as they navigate the intricate requirements of compliance. Employers and HR companies in California are preparing for implementation. Here’s what you need to know:
What is a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan?
A Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) is a strategic blueprint designed to reduce the potential for violence within a working environment. This comprehensive plan comprises policies and procedures to identify and mitigate the risks of violent incidents. It involves employee training, clear reporting procedures and an effective response plan to handle any potential threats or acts of violence.
Initially sparked by the tragic events of 2021 at the Valley Transportation Authority railyard in San Jose, this law incorporates WVPPs as a compulsory component of an employer’s injury and illness prevention program (“IIPP”). WVPPs can also be maintained as a separate document from the IIPP. Like IIPPs, WVPPs will encompass designating a responsible person for program implementation, conducting regular inspections to identify and address hazards, providing employee hazard-specific training, and keeping a record of incidents.
What is an Injury and Illness Prevention Program?
An Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) is a proactive process designed to help employers identify and fix workplace hazards before they cause injuries or illnesses. Formally recognized by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA), every employer in California is mandated to implement an IIPP. This comprehensive plan includes elements such as a clear line of responsibility, safe work practices, hazard assessment and correction procedures and thorough employee training. The IIPP is essential in creating a safer work environment, educating employees about potential risks, and equipping them with the knowledge to mitigate these hazards effectively.
Necessitating Active Involvement from Employees
California’s new WVPP requirement builds upon existing laws aimed at protecting employees from violence. However, unlike an IIPP, this law mandates that employers actively involve employees and any associated unions in the plan’s development, implementation and training aspects. Unionized employers will face the challenge of securing employee “active involvement” in these tasks.
Furthermore, the law necessitates comprehensive employee training on a wide range of topics, including understanding the law’s definitions and requirements, familiarity with the WVPP itself, knowledge of the required documentation, reporting procedures for incidents and concerns and opportunities for employee participation in WVPP development and implementation.
In addition to these legal and procedural matters, employers must provide training on “workplace violence hazards specific to the employees’ jobs” and “strategies to avoid physical harm,” all while facilitating interactive Q&A sessions with an expert on the employer’s plan. This means that even employers with a vast workforce will need to conduct training sessions tailored to each employee’s position and their unique physical harm prevention strategies. Employee involvement and the complexity of training obligations are just a couple of examples highlighting the formidable nature of this law’s requirements for employers.
Learn more about how HR companies in California can help ensure compliance with the ever-changing legal landscape.
Documenting Incidents and Conducting Investigations
The law further compels employers to maintain various records, including a separate log for violent incidents, employee training records and workplace violence investigations. Under the new regulations, employers are responsible for investigating and addressing any employee concerns related to workplace violence and communicating the investigation’s findings to the employee. Additionally, employers are required to conduct investigations after incidents of workplace violence. With the broad definition of workplace violence encompassing any act of physical force that results in or is highly likely to cause injury, trauma, or stress to an employee, these new investigative and recordkeeping requirements could impose significant administrative burdens on employers.
Failure to Comply: Why Many Are Turning to HR Companies in California
Failure to comply with SB 553 can have severe consequences for employers. The law has authorized Cal/OSHA to issue citations and penalties against employers found to be non-compliant. Penalties can range from minor fines for smaller infractions to substantial monetary fines for severe or repeated violations. Furthermore, employers could potentially face lawsuits from employees who suffer workplace violence in the absence of a proper WVPP. In addition to legal repercussions, failure to implement an effective WVPP could lead to increased workers’ compensation claims, loss of productivity, and a negative impact on employee morale and reputation. Thus, it is crucial for all employers to understand and comply with the new law’s requirements fully.
Overall, the new WVPP requirement in California highlights the growing importance of prioritizing workplace safety and preventing violence in all forms. Employers must take proactive steps to create a secure work environment for their employees, including implementing comprehensive plans such as an IIPP and now a WVPP. With the implementation deadline approaching, it is crucial for employers to begin working on their plans immediately— many are already turning to outsourced HR solutions in California to help with the process.
Consulting with HR Companies in California
Employers in California are increasingly turning to HR companies to navigate the complexities of compliance with SB 553. This legislative bill, enacted to enhance protections for workers, has introduced numerous changes and obligations for businesses operating in the state. HR companies are now playing a crucial role in ensuring that employers remain up-to-date with the evolving legal landscape, offering expert guidance and minimizing the risk of costly legal violations.
eqHR Solutions is a valuable resource for businesses seeking to navigate the complex landscape of human resources and compliance, offering invaluable HR solutions in California.
Contact us for an implementation plan.