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California Senate Bill 553: Workplace Violence Prevention for Startups

On July 1, 2024, California small businesses must comply with a new law that affects employers with 10 or more on-site employees. As an HR specialist in Silicon Valley with clients all over California, I wanted to ensure I inform Ravix clients and any other startups who need to comply. Here’s what the Workplace Violence Prevention means for startups – whether on-site, remote or in a co-working space, we have answers and we’re here to help you implement a plan! Read below and see some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553)?

California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553), signed into law on September 30, 2023, mandates that most employers in California develop and implement a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP). The law amends Labor Code section 6401.7 and introduces section 6401.9, outlining specific requirements for these plans. Starting July 1, 2024, all employers within the scope of this law must have their WVPPs in place.

Who Does SB 553 Affect?

SB 553 affects a broad range of employers in California, except those in certain exempted categories specified in subsection (b) of Labor Code 6401.9. This includes startups, regardless of their size or industry, as long as they have ten or more employees in California. Even companies with a primarily remote workforce or those operating out of co-working spaces must comply if they meet the employee threshold.

Why Does SB 553 Matter?

Workplace violence is the second leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States, affecting nearly 2 million American workers annually. SB 553 aims to mitigate this risk by ensuring employers take proactive steps to protect their employees. For startups, this means fostering a safer work environment, increasing employee morale and productivity and mitigating potential legal liabilities.

Key Requirements of the Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP)

1. Prohibiting Employee Retaliation
• Ensure employees can report workplace violence without fear of retaliation.

2. Handling and Responding to Reports
• Develop procedures for accepting and responding to reports of workplace violence.

3. Employee Training and Communication
• Provide effective training on workplace violence prevention.
• Maintain clear communication channels regarding workplace violence matters.

4. Emergency Response Protocols
• Establish protocols for responding to workplace violence emergencies.

5. Hazard Assessments
• Conduct regular assessments to identify and mitigate workplace violence hazards.

6. Violent Incident Log
• Maintain a detailed log of all incidents of workplace violence, even if no injuries occurred.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What should the WVPP include?

The WVPP must include:

  • Names of individuals responsible for implementation.
  • Procedures for employee involvement in plan development.
  • Methods to coordinate with other employers, if applicable.
  • Procedures for handling reports of workplace violence and ensuring no retaliation.
  • Compliance procedures for employees, including supervisors.
  • Communication methods regarding workplace violence.
  • Emergency response protocols.
  • Training provisions.
  • Procedures to identify, evaluate, and correct workplace violence hazards.
  • Post-incident response and investigation procedures.
  • Regular review and revision protocols.

How should startups handle the WVPP in co-working spaces?

Startups in co-working spaces should coordinate with the building manager to understand the existing workplace violence prevention measures. They should develop their own WVPP that integrates these measures and addresses specific needs related to their unique work environment.

Do remote employees count towards the 10-employee threshold?

The law primarily focuses on employees working in physical office spaces. However, it’s advisable for startups with a significant number of remote workers to still develop a WVPP, particularly if they occasionally gather in person for meetings or events.

How comprehensive does the WVPP need to be?

While the OSHA template for WVPP is extensive, startups can customize their plans to suit their specific needs. The goal is to ensure all elements are addressed effectively without unnecessary complexity. Plans can range from 8 to 10 pages, focusing on practical implementation rather than just compliance.

What training is required for employees?

Employers must provide initial training and annual refreshers covering:

  • The WVPP details and how to obtain a copy.
  • Definitions and requirements of Labor Code section 6401.9.
  • Reporting procedures for workplace violence incidents.
  • Job-specific violence hazards and preventive measures.
  • Purpose and access to the violent incident log.
  • Interactive discussions with knowledgeable individuals about the WVPP.

What are the recordkeeping requirements?

Employers must maintain:

  • Hazard identification, evaluation, and correction records for at least five years.
  • Training records for a minimum of one year.
  • Violent incident logs and incident investigation records for at least five years.

How should startups update their handbooks to comply with SB 553?

Handbooks should reference compliance with the California Workplace Violence Prevention Program and provide information on accessing the detailed WVPP. However, the WVPP itself should remain a standalone document.

SB 553 introduces significant new requirements for California employers to enhance workplace safety. For startups, developing and implementing a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan is a legal obligation and a crucial step in protecting employees and fostering a safe and productive work environment. By understanding the law’s requirements and proactively developing tailored plans, startups can ensure compliance and contribute to a safer workplace for all employees.

Need help putting together your WVPP to comply with California Senate Bill 553? Fill out the form below to get expert assistance from our HR team.