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What to Know About California’s S.B. 553 New Workplace Violence Prevention Law

Workplace safety continues to make headlines every day, as these acts affect more than a million Americans each year. Last fall, the state of California passed S.B. 553, which requires employers to develop workplace violence prevention plans and have them in place by July 1, 2024. 

Laws like S.B. 553 that help address workplace violence are crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of employees, as they compel employers to comply with legal standards, implement preventive measures, and create a culture of reporting without fear of reprisal.

By establishing guidelines and requirements, these laws reduce employer liability, contribute to positive public image, and align with broader societal values of providing a work environment free from violence and harassment. Ultimately, adherence to workplace violence laws fosters a secure workplace, enhances employee morale, and promotes organizational success and social responsibility.

Defining Workplace Violence

The definition laid out by the new law defines workplace violence as: 

  • The threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, psychological trauma, or stress.
  • An incident involving a threat or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, including common objects used as a weapon. 

Workplace violence can involve employees, employers, customers, clients, or visitors, and take on various forms, such as verbal abuse, threats, physical assault, property damage, or other aggressive behaviors.

Workplace violence is a serious concern for employers and employees alike, as it can have significant implications for the well-being of individuals and the overall workplace environment. It can occur in any type of workplace, and preventive measures often include the development and implementation of policies (what S.B. 553 attempts to implement), training programs, and security measures to address and mitigate the risks associated with such incidents.

What's Included in S.B. 553

Under the new law, California employers are required to establish a workplace violence plan that includes the following: 

  • Developing methods and protocols to address unsafe or unhealthy conditions and work practices.
  • Establishing a comprehensive system to recognize and assess workplace hazards through regularly scheduled inspections, aiming to quickly identify and rectify unsafe conditions and practices.
  • Implementing a system to ensure employees adhere to safe and healthy work practices, with disciplinary actions in place for non-compliance.
  • Formulating effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies, encompassing alert protocols, evacuation or sheltering plans, and seeking assistance from designated personnel, including security and law enforcement.
  • Identifying the individuals responsible for program implementation.
  • Implementing an occupational health and safety training program to educate employees on general safe and healthy work practices.
  • Establishing a communication system with employees on occupational health and safety matters, emphasizing provisions that encourage the reporting of workplace hazards without fear of reprisal.
  • Defining what’s included in logs that record workplace violence incidents, including information like date, time, and locations of incidents, type of incident, and more. 
  • Establishing procedures for post-incident response and investigation.

What's Next

The July 1 deadline is fast approaching, and as California-based organizations continue to develop their plans, there are a number of factors to consider: 

  • Who will lead the efforts? Larger organizations with security and risk management teams in place may already lead these efforts, but smaller organizations that have leaders tasked with multiple initiatives may need to lean on external resources, like consultants, to help. Look for experts in risk management and workplace safety for best practices. 
  • How training will be provided. This will be a joint effort between security and risk teams alongside human resources, so defining how training is implemented and who is responsible will be critical to decide before any materials are developed.   
  • How automation plays a role. In many cases, the gathering of information for post-incident response and investigation can be streamlined using technology that delivers more automation to assist those involved. Being able to quickly tie together video, access control data, response notes, logs for emergency communications, and those involved together can assist law enforcement in the event of an incident.   
  • Ensuring efficient incident and case management. As mentioned above, the ability to use technology to gather critical information about an instance (or series of instances) of workplace violence or bullying can mean all the difference when adhering to the new laws around workplace violence prevention plans. The ability for organizations to gather the necessary information through a singular platform and present it to the proper channels can help organizations meet the requirements of the law. 

As California businesses navigate through the requirements of S.B. 553, technology may play a vital role. Click here to discuss how the HiveWatch® GSOC Operating System might augment and automate some of these requirements for your organization.

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Jenna Hardie
Jenna Hardie

Jenna Hardie is senior manager, content and PR, for HiveWatch, a physical security software company reimagining how organizations keep their people and assets safe. Hardie has worked in the physical security, cybersecurity, and high-tech space for the last nine years, driving brand awareness, media relations, marketing, and communications initiatives.

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