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Understanding California’s Workplace Violence Prevention Law, and How to Comply

By Intertek Alchemy   |   

Employees have the right to feel safe at work, whether it’s a school, restaurant, or manufacturing site. Yet, the workplace remains one of the most dangerous places for attacks from coworkers, customers, or other outside sources. 

Between 1966 and 2021, 30% of the mass shootings occurred in the workplace, according to the Violence Project. And 3.8 million workers became victims of nonfatal workplace violence in 2022, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 

Stats like these, combined with stories upon stories of workplace violence incidents, led California to create the workplace violence prevention law, which takes effect July 1. 

Officially known as California Senate Bill No. 533, the law requires nearly all California employers to create a comprehensive, written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan that identifies hazards and corrective actions, maintains a record log of incidents and complaints, provides a means to report threats, and trains employees to identify and respond to potential threats. 

Even if you don’t run a business in California, OSHA requires employers to maintain a safe workplace environment free from hazards that can cause death or severe harm — including workplace violence.

Preventive vs. reactive is a crucial distinction to make in this area. While many companies believe their policies address workplace violence, they instead “respond” to it. They might state in an employee manual that workplace violence isn’t tolerated. But neither of these efforts prevent harassment, intimidation, and conflict.

That difference between reactive and preventive can be highly costly in the safety of employees and a company’s financial standings. A 2019 report by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) estimated the economic impact of workplace violence that year to be more than $130 billion nationally. 

Since it was passed last September, many manufacturers outside the state have begun using the California workplace violence prevention safety law as a blueprint to create a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP). Those plans should start with an understanding of what constitutes workplace violence. 

The California law can help you comprehend the breadth of workplace violence, which moves beyond a direct threat of physical violence. It involves acts of violence that result in trauma, stress, and injury.

The law defines workplace violence as any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment, including these four types. 

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

WVPP Basics

Once you know how to define workplace violence, you can begin crafting your comprehensive WVPP. The plan must be specific to each area and operation’s hazards and provide effective procedures to respond to reports of workplace violence.

It should be reviewed throughout the year for its efficacy and updated whenever necessary. The plan should provide a means and process for recording workplace violence incidents and demonstrate how employees are trained to report incidents without fear of reprisal.   

The written plan should always be available to employees and authorized representatives. It should be incorporated into the written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) or maintained as a separate document. The document should include the names or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan.

It should include procedures to garner support from employees and authorized union representatives, including their role in identifying, evaluating, and correcting workplace violence hazards, designing and implementing training, and reporting and investigating workplace violence incidents.

Employees should receive an overview of the plan, know how to access it and participate in developing and implementing it.

Of course, like most things legal and regulatory, the basics can become complex quickly once applied in the real world of busy, multi-cultural manufacturing facilities. Many organizations will choose to leverage workplace safety consultants who can provide objective direction with an independent eye. 

Employee Training on Workplace Violence Prevention

No WVPP can prevent violence if employees don’t know how to use it. That’s why the California law requires employers to train employees to identify and respond to workplace violence incidents. The training must be appropriate in content and vocabulary to your employees’ educational level, literacy, and language. Training should be updated whenever a new hazard is identified. 

Employers can get a jump start through workforce training vendors, such as Intertek Alchemy, whose 150+ training course library includes numerous courses that can become part of WVPP training, including: 

  • Workplace Violence
  • Active Shooter Readiness
  • Anger Management
  • Appropriate Behavior in the Workplace
  • Bullying
  • And many more. 

A critical component of the law is this training needs to be site-specific. Which is why employers should be sure any courseware they leverage from third-party providers can be easily customized to meet this legal, site-specific requirement

In addition, employees, especially managers, can be trained to de-escalate issues before they reach a boiling point. Training can include active listening, conflict resolution, anger management, and handling employee complaints. 

Records Management

Under the California law, any records of workplace incidents, news, evaluations, and corrections must be maintained for at least one year. Training records require the amount of training time, including dates, contents or summaries, names and qualifications of persons conducting the training, and names and job titles of all persons attending the training sessions.

Violent incident logs and records should be kept for at least five years. These records should not contain medical information. Records should be available to the agency division chief, employees, and their representatives upon request.

We hope this article has shed some light on the path forward with California Senate Bill No. 533. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll direct you to resources you need to be in compliance. 

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