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In September of last year, the California Legislature signed Senate Bill SB 553 into law. SB 553 authorized the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, to amend the California Labor Code to include workplace violence prevention and reporting as part of employers’ current workplace injury prevention program requirements. The new workplace violence prevention requirements echo existing Cal/OSHA requirements for employers and workers in the healthcare industry that have been in place since 2017 and expand workplace violence prevention program requirements to ALL employers within the state of California, with very limited exceptions. The new requirements will be in effect and enforceable on July 1, 2024. If you’re not already up to speed and in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s workplace violence prevention program requirements, the clock is ticking.

Workplace Violence Trends

So, what are the impacts of workplace violence? Here’s some data from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that illustrate these tragic trends.  

  • Workplace fatalities due to violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 11.6 percent to 849 in 2022, compared to 761 in 2021. Homicides accounted for 61.7 percent of these fatalities, with 524 deaths, an 8.9 percent increase from 2021.
  • As of 2022, workplace violence remains a close 3rd in terms of the most common cause of fatal workplace injuries, behind slips, trips, and falls, and transportation incidents.
  • Workplace violence is the second leading cause of work-related fatalities among black and African American workers.
  • An annual average of 1.3 million nonfatal workplace violent victimizations occurred during the combined 5 years from 2015 to 2019. This was a rate of 8.0 nonfatal violent crimes per 1,000 workers age 16 or older.
  • According to the US Department of Justice, during 2019 female workers had more than 2 times greater rates of nonfatal injuries due to workplace violence resulting in days away from work compared to male workers (5.1 cases per 10,000 FTEs for females compared to 2.3 per 10,000 FTEs for males).
  • Workplace violence ranked as the 5th most common cause of non-fatal work-related injuries among US workers in 2022.

For further statistics on workplace violence-related fatal and non-fatal injuries, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website here. These statistics are not exhaustive, and studies on workplace violence impacts are quite well established. The point being that workplace violence continues to be a challenge for employers, workers, lawmakers, and the general public to address.

Cal/OSHA Workplace Violence Prevention Program Requirements

SB 553 specifically directs Cal/OSHA to amend Section 6401.7 of the California Labor Code, which establishes general requirements for employers’ injury prevention programs, to now include “A workplace violence prevention plan conforming to the requirements of Section 6401.9.” That section (6401.9) lays out the practical steps employers must take to achieve and maintain compliance with the new requirements. The good news for employers is that the required compliance tasks are relatively straightforward and can be condensed into a handful of key categories. These categories are:

  1. Written workplace violence prevention program
  2. Workplace violence incident recordkeeping and reporting
  3. Worker training
  4. Workplace violence prevention program records retention and access

Let’s look at each of these major categories of compliance tasks to discuss how to meet the requirements and explore how VelocityEHS Safety Solution capabilities can help you automate and simplify complex compliance tasks.

Written Workplace Violence Prevention Program

Cal/OSHA requires each employer to develop and maintain a written workplace violence prevention program plan. The specific information that this program plan must contain includes:

  • Names or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan.
  • Procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan.
  • Methods to coordinate implementation of the plan with other employers, when applicable, to ensure that those employers and employees understand their respective roles as provided in the plan.
  • Procedures for the employer to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence, and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report.
  • Procedures to ensure that supervisory and nonsupervisory employees comply with the plan in a manner consistent with paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3203 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.
  • Procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters, including, but not limited to:
    • How an employee can report a violent incident, threat, or other workplace violence concern to the employer or law enforcement without fear of reprisal.
    • How employee concerns will be investigated and how employees will be informed of the results of the investigation and any corrective actions to be taken.
  • Effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies, including, but not limited to:
    • Systems to alert employees of the presence, location, and nature of workplace violence emergencies.
    • Evacuation or sheltering plans.
    • How to obtain help from staff assigned to respond to workplace violence emergencies including security personnel and law enforcement.
  • Procedures to develop and provide required training.
  • Procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, including, but not limited to, scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions, work practices and employee reports and concerns.
  • Procedures to correct workplace violence hazards identified and evaluated in a timely manner.
  • Procedures for post-incident response and investigation.
  • Procedures to review the effectiveness of the plan and revise the plan as needed. The plan shall be reviewed at least annually, when a deficiency is observed or becomes apparent, and after a workplace violence incident.
  • Procedures or other information required by Cal/OSHA as being necessary and appropriate to protect the health and safety of employees.

The Challenge…

Developing your workplace violence prevention program written plan is a collaborative effort that requires participation from multiple stakeholders across your workplace and your organization. Your workplace safety committee is the ideal forum for planning and developing the procedures and other safety controls required for your written plan. However, your safety committee can only do so much unless you have an effective means of generating, documenting, assigning, and enforcing accountability for the improvements, hazard controls, and other corrective actions necessary to implement your workplace violence prevention program plan. Communication is key to ensuring that everyone not only has visibility of your workplace violence prevention program plan, but also understands what they need to do to achieve the goals of that plan.

The Solution

The Velocity Safety Solution offers Safety Meetings software functionality that is specifically designed for safety committee planning and administration. From meeting schedules and agenda tracking down to action item assignment and management, our Safety Meetings capabilities help you to coordinate and communicate your workplace violence prevention program plan and facilitate ownership for compliance.

Workplace Violence Incident Recordkeeping & Reporting

Another essential aspect of compliance with Cal/OSHA’s workplace violence prevention program requirements is documentation of workplace violence incidents that may occur in your workplace. In addition to the information that must be detailed in your written workplace violence prevention program plan, you also need to document the following information for any workplace violence incidents that occur in your workplace:

  • The date, time, and location of the incident.
  • The workplace violence type or types (see Workplace Violence Hazard Recognition).
  • A detailed description of the incident.
  • A classification of who committed the violence, including whether the perpetrator was a client or customer, family or friend of a client or customer, stranger with criminal intent, coworker, supervisor or manager, partner or spouse, parent or relative, or other perpetrator.
  • A classification of circumstances at the time of the incident, including, but not limited to, whether the employee was completing usual job duties, working in poorly lit areas, rushed, working during a low staffing level, isolated or alone, unable to get help or assistance, working in a community setting, or working in an unfamiliar or new location.
  • A classification of where the incident occurred, such as in the workplace, parking lot or other area outside the workplace, or other area.
  • The type of incident, including, but not limited to, whether it involved any of the following:
    • Physical attack without a weapon, including, but not limited to, biting, choking, grabbing, hair pulling, kicking, punching, slapping, pushing, pulling, scratching, or spitting.
    • Attack with a weapon or object, including, but not limited to, a firearm, knife, or other object.
    • Threat of physical force or threat of the use of a weapon or other object.
    • Sexual assault or threat, including, but not limited to, rape, attempted rape, physical display, or unwanted verbal or physical sexual contact.
    • Animal attack.
    • Other
  • Consequences of the incident, including, but not limited to:
    • Whether security or law enforcement was contacted and their response.
    • Actions taken to protect employees from a continuing threat or from any other hazards identified as a result of the incident.
    • Information about the person completing the log, including their name, job title, and the date completed.

The Challenge…

The information that must be documented following a workplace violence incident is similar to the types of information you would normally record following any workplace safety incident, but the Cal/OSHA’s workplace violence prevention standard requires some very specific pieces of information. Having an incident reporting and recordkeeping system that accommodates the specific incident information that must be recorded will help you do a few things:

  • ensure any incident records meet Cal/OSHA report formatting and information requirements to maintain compliance.
  • standardize incident information and hazard classification criteria across all incidents and even across multiple workplace locations. This allows you to compare workplace violence data across areas of your facility or across locations “apples to apples” and more accurately identify trends.
  • More quickly and thoroughly capture and communicate workplace violence incident data, as well as reference that data for the purposes of incident investigation (required), root cause analysis, and other critical follow-up actions.

The Solution

The VelocityEHS Safety Solution’s Incident Management capability accommodates Cal/OSHA workplace violence prevention program reporting requirements. In addition to our comprehensive OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping compliance functionality, we give California employers the unique configurability options to tailor their incident recordkeeping and reporting systems to meet Cal/OSHA’s specific requirements for workplace violence incident reporting. Here’s a rundown of our workplace violence incident reporting configuration options:

In addition to Cal/OSHA’s unique workplace violence incident reporting information requirements, the VelocityEHS Safety Solution’s Incident Management capability offers reporting and analysis functionality that helps evaluate and identify workplace violence incident data to identify root causes so you can implement appropriate controls (including training) and compare safety performance data across departments, locations, and your entire organization.

Workplace Violence Prevention Training

Among the various types of hazard controls that employers must implement to help prevent and/or mitigate the risks of workplace violence, training plays an especially crucial role. This is because of the unpredictable nature of workplace violence risks. It can be difficult to assess the potential frequency and severity of a workplace violence incident, and physical hazard controls are often infeasible in many situations and workplace environments where these incidents tend to occur. As a result, worker training in how to respond to workplace violence and all other aspects of the workplace violence prevention program plan is often the first and only line of defense workers have.

The Challenge…

Effective workplace violence training starts with recognizing the types of workplace violence hazards that workers may encounter. There are four major types of workplace violence incidents, and recognizing distinctions among these types of incidents is not only required for the Cal/OSHA mandated incident reporting and recordkeeping requirements, but it is also a first step to developing the Cal/OSHA-required training, procedures, and other hazard controls best suited to each type of incident. These incident types include:

  • Type 1 – workplace violence committed by a person who has no legitimate business at the worksite and includes violent acts by anyone who enters the workplace or approaches workers with the intent to commit a crime.
  • Type 2 – workplace violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or visitors.
  • Type 3 – workplace violence against an employee by a present or former employee, supervisor, or manager.
  • Type 4 – workplace violence 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.

Additional Cal/OSHA workplace violence prevention training requirements include:

  • The employer’s Written Workplace Violence Prevention Program, how to obtain a copy of the employer’s plan at no cost, and how to participate in development and implementation of the employer’s plan.
  • The definitions and requirements of the Cal/OSHA workplace violence prevention standard.
  • How to report workplace violence incidents or concerns to the employer or law enforcement and their right to do so without fear of reprisal.
  • Workplace violence hazards specific to the employees’ jobs, the corrective measures the employer has implemented, how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence, and strategies to avoid physical harm.
  • Incident documentation procedures required under the standard and how to obtain copies of records.
  • How to submit questions and receive responses from a person knowledgeable about the employer’s plan.
  • Review and update of training whenever a new or previously unrecognized workplace violence hazard has been identified, and when changes are made to your written plan.

Two important things to remember with this final aspect of Cal/OSHA’s workplace violence prevention training requirements:

  • Any changes to the workplace or working conditions could potentially introduce or change the nature of workplace violence hazards that workers may be exposed to. Therefore, workplace changes should be developed and implemented using Management of Change (MOC) processes to ensure changes are evaluated in a systematic manner and newly introduced workplace violence hazards are assessed and controlled as early as possible during the change process and incorporated into your written workplace violence prevention program plan.
  • The training review and update requirement is a prime example of how the hazard recognition and reporting procedures required in your written plan form the basis for your training program and activities. Ensure that you provide workers with a standardized, user-friendly, and accessible system to document and report hazards, and reinforce a workplace culture that encourages and incentivizes reporting of workplace violence hazards without fear of retaliation. If you do these things, you will capture workplace violence hazards in an accurate, timely, and detailed manner so that you can quickly incorporate them into your updated written program plan.  

The Solution

VelocityEHS Safety Solution capabilities give you the ability to easily develop and deliver the required workplace violence prevention training to your workers. Our Training & Learning software offers an extensive library of interactive eLearning training content that includes more than 30 essential workplace violence prevention topics so you can provide your workers with the training they need, when and where they need it. The software’s built-in learning management system (LMS) provides intuitive course development tools to easily build and deliver training content specific to your unique workplace violence hazards while giving you the ability to assign, schedule, and monitor training from a single, centralized tool where training records can be easily documented and quickly accessed. Combine that with our Incident Management capabilities, including intuitive Hazard Identification tools that allow workers to easily document workplace violence hazards wherever and whenever they find them, and you have a system which allows you to train your workers to a high level of workplace violence hazard awareness, and incorporate the hazards they identify into your workplace violence training as part of a continuous improvement approach to risk management and prevention.

Records Retention & Access

Cal/OSHA requires that employers retain records related to their workplace violence prevention program for a period of 5 years. The records retention requirements include:

  • Training records maintained for a minimum of one year and include training dates, contents or a summary of the training sessions, names and qualifications of persons conducting the training, and names and job titles of all persons attending the training sessions.
  • Violent incident logs maintained for a minimum of five years.
  • Records of workplace violence incident investigations maintained for a minimum of five years. These records shall not contain “medical information,” as defined in subdivision (j) of Section 56.05 of the Civil Code.
  • All records required by this subdivision shall be made available to the division upon request for examination and copying.

Compliance with this aspect of Cal/OSHA’s workplace violence prevention program standard is pretty straightforward, and easy to achieve if you have an effective system for documenting this information in the first place. The VelocityEHS Safety solution capabilities, including our Incident Management and Training & Learning functionality, fulfil this requirement by making it easy to document and access the records and data that Cal/OSHA requires for compliance.

VelocityEHS Can Help!

There are a lot of things employers need to do to ensure compliance with Cal/OSHA’s Workplace Violence Prevention Program requirements. Why not have a single software system that manages every aspect of those requirements including written plan development, incident reporting and investigation, worker training, and incident recordkeeping? That’s exactly what the VelocityEHS Safety Solution capabilities offer to employers like you, whether you’re based in California and are covered under the new requirements, based in other jurisdictions where workplace violence prevention requirements apply, or just want to provide the greatest degree of protection from workplace violence for your employees.

Click here to learn more about the VelocityEHS Safety Solution capabilities and Request a Demo to see first-hand how we can help you achieve compliance and strengthen your workplace violence prevention program.