SB 553: Preventing Workplace Violence in California

The California Legislature passed Senator Cortese’s Senate Bill (SB) 553 on September 12, 2023, marking a significant step towards protecting workers from workplace violence. SB 553 mandates that employers incorporate workplace violence prevention plans into their Cal/OSHA Injury Illness Prevention Plans. This legislation was largely driven by the tragic 2021 massacre at the Valley Transportation Authority railyard in San Jose, highlighting the urgent need for enhanced workplace safety measures.

Rising Workplace Violence

Workplace violence and assaults in the retail sector has been a growing concern, especially over the last few years. According to a 2022 government study, there were approximately 1.3 million nonfatal workplace violence incidents annually between 2015 and 2019. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 392 workplace homicides, with the retail sector experiencing significantly higher rates of violence compared to other industries. Similarly, ​a 2022 analysis by the New York Times found that assaults in grocery stores increased by 63% from 2018 to 2020, and assaults in convenience stores grew by 75%. These alarming statistics underscore the necessity of SB 553 and its focus on comprehensive violence prevention strategies.

Key Provisions of SB 553

SB 553 outlines several critical requirements for employers to enhance workplace safety:

1. Violent Incident Log: Employers must maintain a log of all violent incidents against employees, including post-incident investigations.

2. Emergency Response Training: Staff must be trained on how to obtain help from law enforcement or designated emergency responders.

3. Workplace Violence Restraining Orders: Employee representatives are allowed to petition for temporary workplace violence restraining orders.

4. Injury Illness Prevention Plan: Employers must identify those responsible for implementing the plan, including roles, training, and protocols for assessing and reacting to threats of violence. The plan must be reviewed annually.

5. Reporting Mechanisms: Employers must explain to employees how to report violent incidents without fear of retaliation and how their concerns will be addressed.

6. Emergency Procedures: Employers must establish procedures for responding to violent emergencies, including alert systems, evacuation or sheltering plans, and obtaining assistance from staff, security, or law enforcement.


What You Need to do – Using Technology to Comply With SB 553

lone worker app and online dashboard


SB 553 underscores the importance of robust reporting mechanisms and emergency procedures, both of which are supported by the implementation of an employee safety monitoring system. By leveraging such a system, employers can ensure that employees have a secure platform to report violent incidents.

The Ok Alone employee safety monitoring system is equipped with several features that align with the requirements of California’s SB 553, providing companies with the tools necessary to comply with this new legislation.

  • Reporting Mechanisms
    • Secure platform for reporting violent incidents linked to employees’ accounts.
    • Ensures dated documentation of incidents.
  • Real-Time Alerts and Emergency Response
    • Real-time alert features for rapid dissemination of emergency notifications.
    • Coordinates evacuation or sheltering in place during incidents.
    • Streamlines assistance from security personnel or law enforcement.
  • Incident Log and Recordkeeping
    • Automatically records all reported incidents in a secure database.
    • Ensures easy access and review of records for compliance with SB 553.
    • Provides valuable data for post-incident analysis and prevention strategies.

Additionally, Ok Alone’s systems can integrate real-time alert features, enabling rapid dissemination of emergency notifications to all employees, and coordinating evacuation or sheltering plans effectively. The system can also streamline the process of obtaining assistance from supervisors or security personnel, ensuring a swift and organized response to any violent emergencies, thus enhancing overall workplace safety and compliance with SB 553 requirements.

By leveraging the advanced features of the Ok Alone system, employers can not only comply with the stringent requirements of SB 553 but also create a safer and more responsive work environment. This proactive approach to workplace safety helps mitigate risks and demonstrates a strong commitment to employee well-being.

Collective Responsibility and Inclusivity

enterprise lone worker system

What sets SB 553 apart is its inclusive approach, allowing collective bargaining representatives to play a crucial role in protecting employees. It also encourages employees to be part of the creation of the Workplace Violence Prevention Plans, ensuring every voice is heard, especially those who will essentially be on the front line of any potential violence.  This reinforces the collective responsibility towards workplace safety, ensuring that all stakeholders are involved in maintaining a safe working environment.

What Businesses Need to do to Meet SB 553

The bill mandates the establishment, implementation, and maintenance of a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan across all sectors. This comprehensive plan aims to foresee potential safety risks and act proactively to prevent incidents. In order to ensure your company complies with the legislation being introduced you need to undertake the following steps:

  • Risk Assessment and Hazard Identification: Conduct thorough assessments to identify potential hazards and vulnerabilities within the organization.
  • Policies and Procedures: Establish clear and comprehensive written policies for prevention, reporting, and response.
  • Employee Training: Implement regular training sessions on recognizing and responding to workplace violence.
  • Security Measures: Introduce physical security measures such as access controls, surveillance cameras, and help alarms.
  • Emergency Response Plans: Develop comprehensive emergency response plans, including communication channels, evacuation procedures, and coordination with law enforcement.

Implications for Remote Employees

SB 553 specifies that employees who choose to telework from locations not under the employer’s control, such as private homes or coworking spaces, are exempt from the standard workplace violence prevention requirements. However, it is prudent for employers to develop violence prevention plans applicable to all employees, including those in remote settings, to prepare for potential future regulatory changes and demonstrate an overall commitment to their employee’s safety.

Compliance and Penalties

Employers are required to comply with SB 553 by July 1, 2024 to avoid penalties, which can range from fines to legal repercussions. This date marks the deadline for establishing, implementing, and maintaining an effective workplace violence prevention plan and maintaining a violent incident log. Additionally, training requirements for employees must also be in place by this date​

Non-compliance with the start date and content of SB553 can result in significant financial consequences, legal actions, and reputational damage, impacting the company’s ability to attract talent and maintain positive relationships with clients and stakeholders.

Conclusion

Lone Worker Safety for Care Workers dashboard

SB 553 is a crucial legislative measure aimed at preventing workplace violence and enhancing employee safety in California. By requiring comprehensive violence prevention plans, regular training, and proactive measures, SB 553 ensures that employers are better equipped to handle and prevent violent incidents, creating safer work environments for all employees. Implementing an employee safety monitoring system can significantly aid in complying with the terms of the new legislation.

These systems facilitate secure reporting mechanisms for violent incidents and integrate real-time alert features for rapid dissemination of emergency notifications. Additionally, they help coordinate evacuation or sheltering plans effectively and streamline the process of obtaining assistance from staff or security. By implementing such technology, employers can enhance their compliance with SB 553, mitigate dangers, and foster a culture of safety and preparedness in the workplace.

**References:**

– Legislature Passes Senator Cortese’s SB 553: Preventing Workplace Violence | Senator Dave Cortese (ca.gov)
(https://sd15.senate.ca.gov/news/legislature-passes-senator-corteses-sb-553-preventing-workplace-violence)

-SB-553 Occupational safety: workplace violence: restraining orders and workplace violence prevention plan.
(https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240SB553)

– Understanding SB 553: California’s Workplace Safety Law | AllVoices
(https://www.allvoices.co/blog/understand-california-sb-553)

-Retail Workers increasingly fear for their safety
(https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/28/business/retail-workers-assaults.html)

– California’s Violent Crime Rate Is Diverging from the National Trend – Public Policy Institute of California (ppic.org)
(https://www.ppic.org/blog/californias-violent-crime-rate-is-diverging-from-the-national-trend/)

– Workplace Violence Training to Stay Compliant | Vector Solutions
(https://www.vectorsolutions.com/resources/blogs/workplace-violence-training/)

– Federal Agencies Release Joint Study on Workplace Violence | Bureau of Justice Statistics (https://bjs.ojp.gov/press-release/federal-agencies-release-joint-study-workplace-violence)

-Workplace violence: homicides and nonfatal intentional injuries by another person in 2020
(https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/workplace-violence-homicides-and-nonfatal-intentional-injuries-by-another-person-in-2020.htm)

-Indicators of Workplace Violence, 2019
(https://bjs.ojp.gov/library/publications/indicators-workplace-violence-2019)

– California’s new mandatory workplace violence prevention plan | Nixon Peabody LLP
(https://www.nixonpeabody.com/insights/alerts/2024/03/19/california-mandatory-workplace-violence-prevention-plan)

– What Is SB 553: What Employers Need to Know and How to Prepare in 2024 | Morris Garritano
(https://morrisgarritano.com/resource/what-is-sb-553-what-employers-need-to-know-and-how-to-prepare-in-2024/)

– SB 553 Workplace Violence Prevention: 12 Answers to Employers’ Frequently Asked Questions | Ogletree (https://ogletree.com/insights-resources/blog-posts/sb-553-workplace-violence-prevention-12-answers-to-employers-frequently-asked-questions/)

– SB 553 Workplace Violence Prevention: What California Employers Need to Know | Alliant
(https://alliant.com/news-resources/article-sb-553-workplace-violence-prevention-what-california-employers-need-to-know/)

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