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Upcoming California Legislation Impacting Workplace Violence Prevention: What You Need to Know


California is setting a precedent with comprehensive updates to its workplace safety regulations, specifically targeting workplace violence prevention. The amendments made by California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) to the California Labor Code sections 6401.7 and 6401.9 are set to be enforceable by July 1, 2024. Additionally, there's ongoing development for a workplace violence prevention standard for the general industry, which must be adopted by December 31, 2026. Here’s what businesses and employees in California need to know, supported by compelling statistics that underscore the urgency of these measures.

 

Key Provisions of the Amended Legislation:

1. Enhanced Reporting Requirements: Businesses will need to establish more comprehensive reporting mechanisms for workplace violence incidents.

2. Preventative Measures: Employers are required to implement clear policies that not only address immediate risks but also aim to prevent potential incidents of workplace violence.

3. Employee Training: Mandatory training programs for employees that help them recognize the signs of potential violence and provide them with strategies to de-escalate potentially harmful situations.

 

Development of a New Standard for General Industry

In tandem with the legislative updates, Cal/OSHA is tasked with developing a workplace violence prevention standard in addition to the July 1, 2024  requirements, specifically for general industry sectors, extending beyond healthcare settings where such standards are already in place. This new standard, to be adopted no later than December 31, 2026, reflects a growing recognition of the importance of proactive measures across all fields of employment.

 

Why This Matters:

-Broader Scope: The inclusion of general industry sectors means that more workplaces will have structured guidelines and resources to prevent workplace violence.

- Customization to Various Industries: The standard is expected to be adaptable to the specific needs and risks associated with different types of industries.

 

The Increasing Risk of Workplace Violence: A Statistical and Societal Perspective

Recent statistics highlight the increasing risk of workplace violence, which has prompted these legislative responses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 392 workplace homicides in 2020. Additionally, there were 37,060 nonfatal injuries in the workplace resulting from an intentional injury by another person. The five occupational groups with the most workplace homicides were sales, transportation and material moving, management, construction and extraction, and production.

 

Certain environments face higher risks. For instance:

- Health Care Facilities: Due to the nature of patient care, these locations see a higher rate of workplace violence incidents.

- Late-Night Retail and Service Industries: Places like convenience stores, taxis, and customer service offices dealing with contentious issues like utility bills or parking tickets are particularly vulnerable.

- Alcohol-Serving Establishments: Restaurants, bars, and casinos also see higher instances of workplace violence, as noted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

 

Societal Impact on Workplace Violence:

Today’s societal issues are often a backdrop for conflicts that can escalate into violence, not only in public spaces but also within the confines of the workplace. Issues ranging from economic disparities, personal disagreements, domestic disputes, and social injustices to heightened political tensions can all seep into workplace interactions, increasing the risk of violent incidents. This interconnection between societal unrest and workplace safety highlights the critical need for comprehensive prevention strategies that address not just the symptoms but also the underlying causes of workplace violence.

 

Implications for Employers and Employees

 

For Employers:

Compliance: Employers must update their policies and training programs by the July 2024 deadline to comply with the new regulations.

- Proactive Involvement: Engaging in developing and implementing the industry-specific standards can help tailor the regulations to be more effective and applicable.

- Preparedness and Documentation: Due to the potential risk of harm, it’s critical that employees not only have access to adequate information but also understand what actions to take in response to workplace violence. This ensures that they can address situations competently and safely, contributing to a safer workplace overall.

 

Conclusion

The changes brought about by SB 553 and the forthcoming standards signal a robust effort by California to tackle workplace violence comprehensively. While these changes present certain challenges regarding compliance and implementation, the ultimate goal is to foster a safer and more secure work environment for all. Employers and employees alike should stay informed and prepared as these deadlines approach, ensuring that their workplace is

 

For Employees:

- Increased Safety: Enhanced measures will likely result in safer work environments.

- Empowerment: Training and clear policies empower employees to handle and report incidents effectively.

 

Conclusion

The changes brought about by SB 553 and the forthcoming standards signal a robust effort by California to tackle workplace violence comprehensively. While these changes present certain challenges regarding compliance and implementation, the ultimate goal is to foster a safer and more secure work environment for all. Employers and employees alike should stay informed and prepared as these deadlines approach, ensuring that their workplace is not only compliant but also as safe as possible. The consultants at THRM are happy to assist in writing a compliant and practical plan, creating an effective training program, and providing employee training. Please contact your THRM consultant or Edna Nakamoto to begin working on your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan today.


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