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Workplace Violence: How California Raises the Bar for Prevention Once Again

Workplace Violence: How California Raises the Bar for Prevention Once Again

The state of California is again leading the way in creating regulations to protect employees while on the job site. On September 30, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 553 provisioning Cal OSHA to create an enforceable standard regarding workplace violence prevention.

According to the bill, employers are to have their specific program in place which meets specified requirements in place and effective by July 1st of 2024. California has been known to be a leader in creating enforceable state regulations to protect workers while on the job. California was one of the first states to adopt requirements for employers to put in place an Injury Illness Prevention Program and Heat Illness Prevention Programs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has defined workplace violence as, “…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. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.”

California is the first state to address violence in the workplace by creating a regulation mandating prevention efforts, however, with the increase in violence incidents year after year, one can expect more states to follow suit. In 2021, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that there were 761 employee fatalities resulting from workplace violence incidents that number grew to 849 fatalities in 2022.  According to www.gunviolencearchive.org there were 658 mass shootings in 2023. Mass shootings include an incident with 4 or more fatalities from gun violence. That 2023 number has risen 141% since 2014 which was reported at 272 mass shootings. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a regulation in a “pre-rule” phase regarding the prevention of workplace violence in the healthcare industry, so the topic of workplace violence is also being considered at the federal level.

Senate Bill 553 will require most employers with over 10 employees to put together a program which includes:

  • Create a written Workplace Violence Prevention Program
  • Assess the worksite and working conditions for potential hazards
  • Develop strategies to eliminate or reduce the threat of those hazards
  • Train all employees on workplace violence prevention and the specifics of the written program
  • Log any workplace violence incident
  • Retain the workplace violence incident log for 5 years

Looking at preventing violence in the workplace is asking most employers to dive into new depths. This regulation will force us to think of scenarios most of us do not wish to think about. Some worksite conditions may require additional thought and devotion of resources for higher-risk situations. Situations including employees who…

  • Are exposed to customers and the public
  • Work late hours
  • Serve or sell alcohol to the public
  • Handle large amounts of cash
  • Work alone or in isolated areas
  • Work in facilities with inadequate security
  • Work in establishments with long waits for service

Exploring and managing these conditions, along with others, should be undertaken through effective training, the formulation of policies, upgrades to facilities, and additional measures.

KPA, the solutions leader in workplace safety compliance, is currently developing resources to aid California employers in complying with SB553 by the July 1st deadline.

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About the Author

Zach Pucillo

Zach is a Certified Safety Professional and Certified Hazardous Materials Manager. As KPA’s Mid Atlantic District Team Supervisor, he leads a team of on-site field consultants who help employers identify, track, resolve, and report on issues before they turn into incidents, accidents, or citations. He brings over 15 years of environmental, health, and safety expertise to KPA clients. Zach's the recipient of NSC's Rising Star Award and AHMP's Hazardous Materials Professional of the Year. Outside of KPA and his client work, he volunteers as a youth sports coach and works with local food pantries including, “Second Helpings” of Indianapolis, Ind., and the Feed More Center of Richmond, Va.
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