Workplace safety and health hazards have traditionally been associated with unsafe work practices and hazardous conditions but violent acts committed in the workplace are a growing concern.
On September 30, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill (SB) No. 553, which requires virtually every California employer to implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan with very specific requirements. We recently presented a webinar on the new law, reviewing SB 553 and its very specific requirements. In an effort to address many of the questions our webinar attendees asked and to share that information, we've developed this list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).
1. Does the law require employers to report workplace violence events to Cal/OSHA?
Employers need to report only "serious" injuries or fatalities as required by Title 8 CCR §330(h) and §342. This law did not establish new reporting requirements.
2. Are employers with less than 10 employees automatically exempt from SB 553's coverage?
No. However, the law exempts worksites with less than 10 employees. If the worksite has less than 10 employees present "at any given time" and is not "accessible to the public," and the employer complies with the injury and illness prevention Cal/OSHA regulation, then the worksite may be exempt from the new law.
3. Are healthcare facilities required to comply with SB 553 and the Violence Prevention in Healthcare Regulation, §3342?
No. Health facilities are only required to comply with the Cal/OSHA regulation.
4. Does SB 553 require employers to provide training to all employees regardless of which state they are in or does this new law only apply in California?
This new law only applies to California employers and their California employees.
5. Do workplace violence incidents also go on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Log of Injuries and Illnesses (the OSHA Form 300 log)?
Employers are required to record information on the 300 log only if an employee was injured and meets the requirements of recording on the 300 log.
6. Can our workplace violence plan be added to an injury and illness prevention program (IIPP)?
Yes. It can be part of the IIPP or a stand-alone plan.
7. Will there be an opportunity for public comment during future Cal/OSHA rulemaking on workplace violence?
Yes. There will likely be an opportunity to provide comments in 2024.
8. How can employers make the workplace violence plan accessible to employees?
Many employers post their required safety plans on a company intranet or software platform. Employers may continue to make their workplace violence plans available in binders on the worksite or posting them on bulletin boards in common areas.
9. Does each work location need a dedicated plan or can an organization use a corporate plan for all sites?
If there are different hazards at different locations, then a company's workplace violence prevention plan would need to be customized. If the company has consistent and similar hazards and risks across all its worksites, then the plan can be more uniform across a larger footprint.
10. Will Cal/OSHA publish a model program?
At this time, it is still unclear. Cal/OSHA has not updated its website to this effect or issued a press release regarding a model program.
11. Does the employee-involvement requirement in a company's workplace violence plan also apply to nonunion worksites?
Yes. The employee-involvement requirement applies across all California employers that fall under SB 553.
12. Are animal attacks included considered workplace violence under SB 553?
Yes. This type of incident is called out for recording in the new law's required violent incident log.
Based on communications from the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), we anticipate that Cal/OSHA will begin to focus on workplace violence prevention in advance of the compliance deadline of July 1, 2024. Cal/OSHA has already issued citations to some employers for workplace violence issues in 2023 based on an employer's general duty to recognize hazards. Given these enforcement initiatives and the upcoming effective date, employers may need to start developing and implementing the required workplace violence prevention plan now.
To help employers meet these new requirements, Ogletree Deakins has prepared Workplace Violence Prevention Plan template documents. We have also recorded a three-part podcast series discussing many of the details of the new workplace violence prevention law:
- "California's Workplace Violence Prevention Plan, Part I: SB 553's History, Coverage, and Definitions"
- California's Workplace Violence Prevention Plan, Part II: A Deeper Dive Into SB 553
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.