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Navigating California's Workplace Violence Prevention Law

March 1, 2024 Articles

California has introduced a new requirement compelling most employers to implement a workplace violence prevention policy by July 1, 2024. The implications of this law are significant, prompting the need for human resource executives to understand its intricacies, compliance requirements, and practical tips for successful implementation. This article delves into the key aspects of the law, explores what it means for employers, and provides actionable insights to facilitate a smooth adaptation.

Coverage and Exceptions

The law broadly applies to most employers in California, with a few exceptions. Notably, businesses operating without a physical presence or with fewer than 10 employees in a location not open to the public may be exempt. However, the definition of "locations not open to the public" remains ambiguous, leaving room for interpretation.

The compliance deadline for implementing the workplace violence prevention policy is July 1, 2024. Non-compliance penalties, imposed by OSHA, remain unspecified, but the law offers a leniency clause for first time violations, provided the employer commits to rectifying identified issues. Yet employers should proactively address this requirement to prevent non-compliance and promote employee safety.

The law states that self-defense is not a form of workplace violence that requires tracking. However, incidents involving self-defense may still warrant documentation, as other types of violence may have necessitated the self-defense.

Policy and Training Under the Law

The law requires covered employers to establish a written violence prevention policy, inclusive of training initiatives and incident recording. Workplace violence, according to the law, encompasses any act or threat of violence within the place of employment, including both physical harm and psychological trauma or stress. The law categorizes workplace violence into four types for record-keeping purposes, emphasizing the importance of identifying incidents accurately. These include violent acts or threats of actions:

  1. Committed by a person who has no legitimate business at the worksite, including violent acts by anyone who enters the workplace or approaches workers with the intent to commit a crime.
  2. Directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, or visitors.
  3. Against an employee by a present or former employee, supervisor, or manager.
  4. Committed in the workplace by a person who does not work there, but has or is known to have had a personal relationship with an employee.

To meet the law's requirements, the prevention plan must be in writing and easily accessible to employees. Key elements of the plan include naming the responsible team members, procedures for employee involvement, and guidelines for periodic reviews. Employers can consider including the prevention plan in an existing Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP), or use the opportunity to create an IIPP incorporating these requirements. No model plan has yet been released by OSHA.

Training Requirements and Record Keeping

Training, a critical component of compliance, must cover plan details, workplace violence definitions, reporting procedures, identification of potential violence, and an explanation of the violence incident log. While in-person training is ideal, the training can also be conducted virtually, provided that recordkeeping requirements are met. Training can also explore creative approaches, such as themed safety days, to make the process more engaging for employees.

Comprehensive record-keeping is vital, with certain records required to be retained for five years, including violence incident logs, and others for just one year, like training attendance records. The law specifies detailed information to be included in the violence incident logs, emphasizing the need for accuracy and thorough documentation.

California's workplace violence prevention law presents companies with a multifaceted challenge. By understanding its nuances, proactively implementing policies, and leveraging available resources, businesses can ensure a safe and compliant workplace environment. Collaboration with legal experts and industry resources will prove invaluable in navigating the intricacies of this legislation, ultimately fostering a secure and thriving workplace for all employees.

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