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5 Things California Employers Should Consider to Comply with Senate Bill 553

If you are an employer in California, you’ve probably heard about Senate Bill 553, the legislation requiring most California employers to take steps to prevent and respond to workplace violence and threats. After opposition from various business groups and labor unions prompted the removal of some controversial provisions, the bill passed the California legislature and has been signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Below are five things CA employers can do to prepare now while waiting for this law to take effect. While this law applies to employers in California, it can serve as a benchmark for employers throughout the United States to keep their employees safe and make their organizations stronger.

Develop a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

The law requires most CA employers (with a few exemptions, such as businesses with fewer than ten employees) to establish workplace violence prevention plans. These workplace violence prevention plans should include the following:

  • Detail how the employer addresses employee concerns about violence
  • Include instructions for how and where employees should report incidents of workplace violence and threats
  • Provide guidance on when to call law enforcement or alert a designated employee in case of an emergency

The plans can also include the additional requirements under Senate Bill 553 that are discussed in the remaining items below. Employers can look to existing resources, such as the American National Standard for Workplace Violence and Active Assailant – Prevention, Intervention, and Response, for ways to craft a workplace violence prevention plan that fits the size, culture, and operations of the organization. Employers can also look to engage subject matter experts in workplace violence prevention to conduct a strategic review of existing capabilities and procedures and benchmark those against the new California requirements.

Identify an Employee to Oversee the Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

The law requires employers to identify who in the organization is responsible for overseeing workplace violence prevention training and protocols. This can be done by naming an individual or designating a particular position within the organization.

Train Employees on How to Report Incidents and How to Respond

Under the bill, employers must provide training to their employees regarding:

  • How to alert law enforcement or a designated on-site staff person during an emergency
  • How to report violent incidents and threats (e.g., what to report, where to report it, etc.)
  • What to do in the event of an emergency (e.g., evacuate, shelter in place, etc.)

The person responsible for workplace violence prevention training and protocols within an organization can take time now to develop in-house training on these issues, identify high-quality trainers who can provide the training directly, or provide guidance on how to conduct this training through a train-the-trainer model. Training should include information specific to the organization and specific sites if procedures differ from site to site.

Identify and Implement a Database or Log To Track Violent Incidents, Threats, and Investigations

A major provision of the bill is a requirement that employers must keep track of all violent incidents, threats, and any investigations conducted on those incidents or threats. 

While companies have latitude as to the mechanism they choose to keep track of all threats, incidents, and investigations, more and more organizations are turning to software platforms that can serve as a system of record for all workplace violence incidents and investigations, continually monitor threats and adverse media, and demonstrate defensible actions taken by following best-practice workflows when a threat arises. 

A robust system of record that can house information about these incidents, threats, and investigations can ultimately help employers identify and address problem areas, such as a high volume of incidents in certain locations in the company, threats following an organization’s social media posts or press releases, reports of aggressive behavior increasing under a new supervisor, or changes in policies or procedures.  

Review Injury and Illness Prevention Plans

Already a requirement under California law, injury and illness prevention plans can now be informed by information from the newly required system that tracks violent incidents and threats. Information regarding illnesses, injuries, violent incidents, and threats can help identify trends that may adversely impact employee attendance, workplace climate, and overall productivity.

Dr. Marisa Randazzo, Ph.D.

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