Written By Digital Content Editor Thomas Ahearn
The California Legislature has passed Senate Bill 553 to protect workers from workplace violence by requiring employers to develop their own workplace violence prevention plans as part of their Cal/OSHA Injury Illness Prevention Plans, according to a news release. The bill advances to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.
Introduced by California State Senator Dave Cortese (Democrat-San Jose), Senate Bill 553 requires employers to develop their own workplace violence prevention plans and employees must be informed of these plans so they may prepare accordingly. Under SB 553, these workplace violence prevention plans would:
- Require all employers to maintain a Violent Incident Log of all violent incidents against employees as well as post-incident investigations.
- Require staff to know how to obtain help from the law enforcement or staff assigned to respond to workplace violence emergencies.
- Allow an employee representative to be a petitioner for a temporary workplace violence restraining order.
- Identify those responsible for implementing the plan, including roles, trainings, and protocols for assessing and reacting to threats of workplace violence as part of maintaining the currently-required Injury Illness Prevention Plan, and employers must annually review the plan.
- Require employers to explain to employees how to report violent incidents without fear of retaliation, and how their concerns will be addressed.
- Lay out procedures for responding to violent emergencies, including alerts about emergencies, feasible evacuation or sheltering plans, and obtaining assistance from staff, security, or law enforcement.
For six years, Cal/OSHA – which protects and improves the health and safety of workers in California – has worked on a workplace violence prevention plan for businesses known as the Workplace Violence General Industry Draft. SB 553 would accelerate the creation of this standard by placing it into effect on July 1, 2024.
“I’m grateful to my colleagues in the legislature for standing up for workers and businesses at this time of rising workplace violence,” Senator Cortese stated in the news release about SB 553, which was initially prompted by a 2021 workplace violence incident at a railyard in Senator Cortese’s legislative district of San Jose, California.
According to a 2022 analysis by the New York Times, assaults in retail establishments rose during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Times analysis found that assaults in grocery stores grew by 63 percent from 2018 to 2020 while assaults in convenience stores grew by 75 percent during the same period of time.
“Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide,” reads the definition from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is a service offering of ClearStar, a Human Resources technology firm offering background checks, drug testing, and occupational health screening. ClearStar offers a white paper on “‘Red Flags’ Employers Can Notice To Help Prevent Workplace Violence.” To learn more, contact ClearStar.
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