Legislative Update: Workplace Violence Prevention Plans Required by July 1, 2024

Last Updated 10/6/2023

We recently wrote about Cal/OSHA citations of two agricultural employers for failing to establish a workplace safety plan evaluating the threat of workplace violence following an active shooter situation which took the lives of employees.  With the recent enactment of Senate Bill 553, the requirement that employers have workplace violence prevention plans (WVPPs) on hand has now been codified into law. Governor Newsom’s signature on this legislation is of some historical significance as well because it implements the first general industry workplace violence prevention safety requirements in the nation.

Here's the quick and dirty: SB 553 mandates employers to develop their own workplace violence prevention plans as part of their existing and required Cal/OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Plans (IIPPs). Employees must be informed of these plans and prepare accordingly. Businesses must begin complying with the law on July 1, 2024.

A little background: For the past six years, Cal/OSHA has been working on a workplace violence prevention plan for businesses known as the Workplace Violence General Industry Draft.  However, a tragic massacre in 2021 at the Valley Transportation Authority railyard in San Jose prompted a call for safety protocols to be enhanced resulting in the drafting of SB 553, which has now accelerated the creation of this standard by placing it into effect on July 1, 2024.

And now for the details:

The Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

  • Requires every employer, as part of the IIPP required under existing law, to additionally establish, implement, and maintain, an effective WVPP that is written, available and easily accessible at all times, as specified.
  • Exempts the following from the requirement to establish, implement and maintain a WVPP: health care facilities, as specified; facilities operated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as specified; employers that are law enforcement agencies who meet specified criteria, including being in compliance with the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training Program; employees teleworking, as specified; places of employment where there are less than 10 employees working at the place at any given time, that are not accessible to the public, and are in compliance with the requirement to develop and maintain an IIPP.
  • Provides that Cal/OSHA may issue an order requiring an exempt employer to comply with these requirements, as specified.

WVPP – Definitions

  • “Workplace violence” includes, but is not limited to, the following: i) 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. ii) An incident involving a threat or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, including the use of common objects as weapons, as specified. iii) Four different types of workplace violence, as specified. iv) “Workplace violence” does not include lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others.

WVPP – Elements of the Plan

  • Provides that the WVPP may be incorporated into the written IIPP as a standalone section or maintained as a separate document and that it be specific to the hazards and corrective measures for each work area and operation.
  • Requires that the WVPP include, among other things, the following elements:

o   The names or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the WVPP.

o   Effective procedures to obtain involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in development and implementation, as specified.

o   Employer methods to coordinate implementation of the WVPP with other employers, when applicable, to ensure that employers and employees understand their respective roles, including training and incidents logging.

o   Effective procedures for accepting and responding to reports of workplace violence and prohibit retaliation against an employee making such a report.

o   Effective procedures to ensure that supervisory and nonsupervisory employees comply with the WVPP, as specified.

o   Effective procedures to communicate regarding workplace violence matters, that include, among other things, ensuring employee reporting of incidents or threats without fear of reprisal and investigating employee concerns.

o   Effective procedures to respond to workplace violence emergencies, including, among other things, effective means to alert employees, evacuation or sheltering plans and how to obtain help from staff assigned to respond to these emergencies, if any, and law enforcement.

o   Procedures to identify, evaluate, and correct workplace violence hazards, as specified.

o   Procedures for post-incident response and investigation.

o   Procedures to review the effectiveness of the plan and revise the plan as needed. The plan shall be reviewed at least annually, when a deficiency is observed or becomes apparent, and after a workplace violence incident.

WVPP – Violent Incident Logs

  • Requires the employer to record information in a violent incident log for every workplace violence incident.
  • Requires incident information to be based on information solicited from the employees who experienced the workplace violence, on witness statements, and investigation findings. The employer shall omit from the violent incident log any element of personal identifying information, as specified.
  • Requires the information recorded in the log to include, among other things, a detailed description of the incident, a classification of who committed the violence, the working conditions at the time, the type of incident, and the consequences, including action taken to protect employees, as specified.

WVPP – Training Provisions

  • Requires the employer to provide effective training to employees, as specified, with materials appropriate in content and vocabulary to the educational level, literacy, and language of employees.
  • Requires the training on the elements of the WVPP to be provided when the plan is first established and annually thereafter and requires that it provide an opportunity for interactive questions and answers, as specified.

WVPP - Enforcement and Recordkeeping Requirements

  • Provides various recordkeeping requirements directing employers to maintain the WVPP, training and incident records for up to five years, as specified, and requires these records to be made available to the division and employees and their representatives for examination and copying, as specified.
  • Requires Cal/OSHA to enforce these provisions by the issuance of a citation and a notice of civil penalty in a manner consistent with its existing citation authority.
  • Permits any person who receives a citation and penalty to appeal to the appeals board in a manner consistent with the board's existing procedures.
  • Requires Cal/OSHA to propose, no later than December 31, 2025, and the standards board to adopt, no later than December 31, 2026, standards regarding the WVPP and any additional requirements the division deems necessary and appropriate to protect the health and safety of employees.
  • States that the WVPP, violent incident log, training and record keeping requirements of the bill shall be operative on and after July 1, 2024.

Employers should start to review their IIPPs and be ready to update them with the new WVPPs by the July 1, 2024 deadline.  Need help? Rosasco Law Group, APC, as always, is there to help you with drafting new or updating current employee handbooks IIPPs and now WVPPs.

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