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SB 553 Workplace Violence Prevention: What California Employers Need to Know

SB 553 WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION_2-1

California has taken a significant step towards prioritizing workplace safety with the introduction of groundbreaking legislation that comes into effect this year aimed at identifying and mitigating hazards that can lead to physical, verbal, and emotional abuse.

As workplace violence continues to be a growing concern nationwide, the new law, SB 553, sets a crucial precedent for employers to take proactive measures in protecting their employees.


Table of contents

What Is SB 553?

How Bill 553 impacts businesses

Legal and financial consequences

Will other states pass this legislation?

Practical guidance for compliance with SB 553


What Is SB 553?

The state of California has established itself as a leader in workplace safety, creating laws to address issues like violence at work. SB 553, also known as California Senate Bill 553, is a workplace violence prevention law that was signed into effect on September 30, 2023 and will begin to be enforced from July 1 2024.

Workplace violence is extremely harmful, affecting both individuals and organizations. It damages the sense of security and trust employees should have at work, leading to lower morale, productivity, and increased fear. By introducing this law, California is taking significant steps to stop this.

The Bill was authored by Senator Dave Cortese who represents the San Jose area. He introduced it in response to a mass shooting that happened in a Santa Clara Valley Transport Authority rail yard in May 2021 that left 10 people dead. These deaths accounted for 10 of the 57 workplace violence related deaths in California in 2021 alone, which had the community calling for more to be done with violence prevention.

The key requirements of the new law are:

  • Californian employers must establish, implement and maintain a written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) that includes procedures for implementing the plan, responding to reports of workplace violence and identifying and correcting workplace violence hazards.
  • Employers must provide training on the WVPP and maintain records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation and correction, training records and violent incident logs.
  • California Bill 553 expands employers' ability to obtain restraining orders against individuals who present a credible threat of violence in the workplace, even those threats that are likely to occur at the workplace.
  • In a notable revision, collective bargaining representatives are now empowered with violence prevention to seek restraining orders on behalf of employees in cases of workplace threats or violence.

The law applies to nearly all California employers, with very few exceptions.

How Bill 553 impacts businesses

Here are 10 key points on how SB 553 will affect businesses in California:

1. Written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP)

Employers must develop, implement, and maintain a written WVPP that includes procedures for reporting, responding to, and investigating workplace violence incidents.

2. Workplace Violence Hazard Identification

Employers must identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, including physical, verbal, and emotional abuse.

3.Training Requirements

Employers must provide training on the WVPP to all employees, including supervisors and managers, with additional training for employees in high-risk roles so they better understand violence prevention..

4. Record Keeping

Employers must maintain records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction, as well as training records and violent incident logs.

5. Incident Response

Employers must have procedures in place for responding to and investigating workplace violence incidents, including reporting to law enforcement and providing support to affected employees. For example, alert systems, drills, and other protocols.

6. Employee Participation

Employers must allow employees to participate in the development and implementation of the WVPP and provide a means for employees to report workplace violence hazards.

7. Confidentiality and Non-Retaliation

Employers must ensure that employee reports of workplace violence hazards are kept confidential and that employees are protected from retaliation.

8. Annual Review and Update

Employers must review and update their WVPP annually, or as needed, to ensure it remains effective and relevant.

9. Cal/OSHA Enforcement

Cal/OSHA will enforce compliance with SB 553, including conducting inspections and issuing citations for non-compliance.

10. Civil Liability

Employers who fail to comply with SB 553 may face civil liability for resulting workplace violence incidents.

Please be aware that this is only a summary of the key provisions and may not be exhaustive. Businesses should consult the full text of SB 553 and seek legal advice to ensure compliance.

Legal and financial consequences

Failure to comply with SB 553 can result in significant legal and financial consequences for California employers. Cal/OSHA can impose citations and penalties up to $25,000 for each violation, and repeat violations can lead to increased penalties. Additionally, employers may face civil liability for workplace violence incidents that occur as a result of non-compliance. This can lead to costly lawsuits, damages, and legal fees.

Non-compliance can also lead to criminal charges, including misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the severity of the violation. Employers may also face legal action from employees, unions, or other parties for failing to provide a safe work environment.

COMPLIANCE COMMUNICATION

As well as penalties, there are other financial consequences that can include:

  • Increased workers' compensation claims and premiums
  • Higher insurance costs
  • Legal fees and damages
  • Lost productivity and revenue due to workplace violence incidents
  • Reputational damage and loss of business.

Will other states pass this legislation?

According to the LexisNexis State Net database, 27 states have reviewed more than 100 bills during 2023 related to "workplace violence." This shows that violence prevention is a pressing issue across the country.

California has a history of being one of the first states to adopt progressive laws that are eventually adopted by other states. It is speculated that similar laws to SB 553 could eventually come into place throughout the United States.

Practical guidance for compliance with SB 553

Compliance with SB 553 requires a proactive and comprehensive approach to workplace violence prevention. Here are some practical steps to ensure compliance:

  • Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential workplace violence hazards, including physical, verbal, and emotional abuse.

WHAT IS A RISK MANAGEMENT PLAN? BEST PRACTICES

  • Develop a written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) that includes procedures for reporting, responding to, and investigating incidents such as when to use alert systems.
  • Train all employees, supervisors, and managers on the WVPP, with additional training for high-risk roles.
  • Establish a system for reporting and tracking incidents, including a confidential reporting mechanism.
  • Ensure employee participation and engagement in the development and implementation of the WVPP.
  • Regularly review and update the WVPP to address changing workplace conditions and hazards.
  • Provide resources and support for employees affected by workplace violence.
  • Ensure compliance with Cal/OSHA regulations and record-keeping requirements.

OSHA VIOLATIONS LIST FOR SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE

  • Consider consulting with a workplace violence prevention expert to ensure comprehensive compliance and that you are using best practice methods to respond to workplace violence, such as alert systems..
  • Review and update your WVPP annually, or as needed, to ensure it remains effective and relevant.

By following these practical steps, California employers can ensure compliance with SB 553 and create a safer, more supportive work environment for all employees.

***

SB 553 marks a crucial step forward in prioritizing workplace safety and preventing violence in California. By mandating a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan, employers can proactively identify and mitigate hazards, protecting their employees from physical, verbal, and emotional abuse.

Compliance with SB 553 is not only a legal requirement but also a moral imperative. By taking a proactive approach to workplace violence prevention, employers can create a safer, more supportive work environment, reducing the risk of devastating consequences.

DeskAlerts can help you to get ready for SB 553 in your Californian workplace. Our alert systems are proven to help keep employees safe from a range of hazards, including violence. Get in touch with our experts today for a free demonstration of how our alert systems can work in your organization.

FAQ

How do banks train employees?

Banks train employees using a variety of methods to ensure they are knowledgeable, efficient, and aligned with company policies and industry regulations. New employees typically undergo onboarding programs that include orientation, company policies, and compliance training.

Ongoing training includes workshops, seminars, and online courses on topics such as customer service, financial products, risk management, and cybersecurity. Mentorship programs pair new employees with experienced staff to provide guidance and support.

Banks also emphasize sales techniques and relationship-building for customer-facing roles.

Continuous education is essential to keep employees updated on regulatory changes and emerging trends in the banking industry.

Do banks have training programs?

Banks offer comprehensive training programs for new hires and ongoing development for existing employees. These programs cover a range of topics including compliance, customer service, product knowledge, sales techniques, and industry regulations to ensure staff are well-equipped to perform their roles effectively.

What is the meaning of employee training program?

An employee training program is a structured initiative designed to enhance employees' knowledge, skills, and performance in their job roles. It includes workshops, courses, and on-the-job training to ensure employees are competent and aligned with company goals and industry standards.

Why are employee training programs so important?

Employee training programs are crucial for improving job performance, ensuring employees stay up-to-date with industry standards and regulations, and fostering a skilled workforce.

These programs enhance productivity, boost employee confidence, and contribute to higher job satisfaction and retention, ultimately benefiting the organization's overall success.

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