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Ensuring Legislative and Legal Compliance Regarding Workplace Violence Prevention

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Last month we discussed the benefits and opportunities when it comes to conflict resolution and de-escalation training — and the overall risk mitigation this may offer your business.  There is a second, and equally important part of this topic — the legislative and legal requirements you must abide by when it comes to employee protection.  While various states have differing requirements on their workplace provisions, a review of the California legislation provides a good conversation starter for you to ensure you are in compliance.

California established the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1973, outlining strict safety responsibilities and regulations on employers and employees, including the requirement that an employer establish, implement and maintain an effective injury prevention program, and makes specified violations of these provisions a crime.  Originally, the act was designed to prevent workplace accidents due to lack of safety protocols or business owners cutting corners to save costs.

Over the years, legislation has been added to the act specifically addressing workplace violence and external threats to employees.  Recently, the California state legislature passed SB 553 effective July 1, 2024: Restraining orders and Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.  As discussed in last month’s post, the unfortunate fact is business owners and managers face an increased risk of workplace violence coming from a number of sectors.  This new law amends previous legislation that “authorized any employer, whose employee had suffered unlawful violence or credible threat of violence that reasonably construed to be carried out or to have been carried out at the workplace, to seek a temporary restraining order or hearing on behalf of the employee(s) at the workplace.”

SB 553 now requires employers to “establish, implement and maintain” an effective Workplace Violence Prevention Plan — Not just recommendations or training sessions — It must be a plan that allows for interaction and feedback from employees including the opportunity to ask questions.  The plan needs to contain specific information and guidelines relating to training of all new employees to the prevention plan and update the plan whenever a new hazard is identified, along with a requirement for the employer to record every incident in a specific workplace violence log along with detailed instructions for employees on how to report such incidents.

This log must be up to date and ready to be presented to state inspectors at will and has to be available to employees and employee representatives at any time. With July just 30 days away, it is essential for employers and business owners to get on top of these requirements ASAP to avoid any non-compliance issues with the state or their insurance carrier. 

Additionally, employers must identify a specific Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) Administrator that will oversee and manage the plan and necessary training.

State and federal regulatory groups such as Cal/OSHA have created downloadable template plans business owners and managers can use to begin the process of creating a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.   However, it is essential that the plan is modified to meet your specific business needs and situations; it cannot be a generic one-size-fits-all model. 

If you are unsure how to proceed on creating a plan for your business or have questions regarding compliance, your insurance broker can be a great resource either with referrals to specific HR or legal advisors and can consult on the finished plan to help you ensure you have mitigated as many threats as possible.

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