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Everything You Should Know About California's New Senate Bill 553

In this article, we share a guide to the new California law going into effect this year, which businesses are affected, and what you should be doing to stay in compliance.

by David Choi

In September 2023, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) to tackle the rising concerns about workplace violence. This new law brings in fresh safety duties for most businesses in the state.

Starting from July 1, 2024, the majority of California employers will need to have detailed workplace violence prevention plans or WVPPs. These plans should include ways to spot and address possible security threats, emergency response strategies, and yearly training sessions for employees on these procedures.

Keep in mind, SB 553 doesn’t offer any “grace period,” meaning there’s no extra time to get compliant once the deadline hits. If employers don’t have a violence prevention plan by July 1st, they could face stiff penalties, ranging from $18,000 to $25,000 per violation. Therefore, it's crucial that employers go over the specific rules in SB 553, check current WVPPs, and make any needed changes to comply fully before the big day.

Let’s break down what you need to know about SB 553 ahead of the July 1st deadline.

Understanding California Senate Bill 553

SB533 is a groundbreaking piece of labor legislation aimed at enhancing workplace safety. This law requires employers to develop tailored WVPPs as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Plans (IIPP) mandated by the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration (Cal/OSHA). The primary focus of these plans is on preventing incidents, intervening when necessary, and providing support to employees.

Here are some key elements of SB 553 to consider as you work on your company's WVPP:

Key Provisions

1. Customized Prevention Plans

Employers in California now need to create workplace-specific violence prevention plans. These plans should be tailored to each unique workplace and integrated into the company’s IIPP framework. They must also list the names or job titles of those responsible for implementing these plans.

2. Incident Logs

Businesses are now required to keep track of acts of violence involving employees at their workplaces. This means maintaining an accurate log of any such occurrences.

3. Record Maintenance

It’s crucial for California employers to maintain records of all workplace violence incidents. This includes records of hazard identification, evaluations, corrections made, and training sessions held.

4. Protocols for High-Risk Situations

Employers must establish clear procedures for dealing with violent incidents. This includes incident response plans as well as coordination with local emergency response agencies.

5. Training and Awareness

Employers must provide annual training for their workers covering essential topics such as:

  • The company’s violence prevention plan.

  • Definitions and requirements of the pertinent laws.

  • How to access and use the violent incident log.

  • Reporting procedures for workplace violence incidents or concerns.

  • Specific workplace hazards related to their jobs, the corrective measures taken, and how to seek help to prevent or react to violence.

  • Techniques for avoiding physical harm.

Additionally, employers must document the training sessions, including dates, content covered, and a list of trainers and attendees with their job titles.

By following these steps, businesses can create an culture and environment of safety that complies with California’s regulations on workplace violence prevention.

Who is Affected?

The law impacts all employers in California who have at least one employee, but there are some exceptions:

  • Healthcare Facilities: Employers who already follow Cal/OSHA’s Violence Prevention In Health Care standard.

  • Remote Workers: Employees who work remotely from locations outside the employer’s control.

  • Law Enforcement and Corrections: Employers within the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and law enforcement agencies.

  • Small Private Employers: Employers with 10 or fewer employees working in a location not open to the public.

  • Out-of-State Employees: Employers whose employees are located outside of California, as the law only applies to organizations and their employees within the state.

This means if you’re an employer in California, there's a good chance this law applies to you unless you fall into one of these exceptions.

Creating a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

One major amendment to SB 553 amends state labor law to mandate that employers must have a written WVPP. This plan can either be a separate document or a part of a broader larger IIPP. Here’s what it should include:

1. Assign Responsibilities – Clearly define who is in charge of implementing the plan.

2. Address Specific Workplace Hazards – Identify and focus on unique risks in different work areas.

3. Handle Reports of Violence – Have effective ways to reported workplace violence.

4. Follow Protocol on Reporting Requirements – Adhere to rules for reporting incidents and taking corrective actions.

5. Ensure Compliance – Both managers and regular employees must follow the plan.

6. Maintain Clear Communication – Consistently communicate issues regarding workplace violence.

7. Provide Training – Offer the necessary training on how to prevent workplace violence.

8. Identify Hazards and Correct Errors – Regularly check for and address any risks.

9. Review and Update Regularly – Continually review and update the plan to keep it effective.

While plans are important, they fall apart without great execution. Beakon is an all-in-one threat intelligence and critical response platform that can help.

Clearly Delegate Roles and Encourage Open Communication

SB 533 says that businesses must appoint someone in charge of the organization's WVPPs. It's critical to pick the right person for this job. This role involves handling sensitive issues with empathy and care. People in HR or security operations function are often good choices. By choosing the right people, you can make sure the policy is followed properly and create a safer workplace for everyone.

Log Incidents

SB 553, requires employers to maintain a violent incident log for each event. However, it's important to protect the anonymity of individuals involved in the incident by removing any personal information such as names and emails.

Here's what to Include in Your Log:

- When the incident occurred

- Nature of the Incident (for example, between workers or customer and worker, whether there was criminal intent, etc)

- Details of what happened

- Location where the incident occurred

- Incident Type (for example, assault, harassment)

- Details of the response

- Individual completed the log

Remember, this log should be separate from those mandated by the OSHA. Make sure your OSHA injury logs are recorded separately.

How to Get Ready for and Prevent Workplace Violence

Although workplace violence can’t always be avoided, its consequences can be mitigated with critical event management platforms like Beakon.

Beakon is an all-in-one platform that combines the most comprehensive physical threat intelligence feeds along with easy-to-use mass notification tools that you need to stay ahead of safety risks to your organization. Teams that adopt Beakon keep safety culture strong by reducing alert fatigue and helping improve response times by up to 4 hours on average.

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