In 2017, California became the first state in the nation to implement a regulation requiring health care employers to take steps to prevent workplace violence. That rule took effect in April 2018. Now, the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, is developing a similar standard for general industry.
The most recent draft of the standard, developed in December 2017, would apply to all employers in California except for those already covered under the healthcare violence prevention standard, State of California health care facilities explicitly exempt from the healthcare violence prevention standard, Department of Corrections facilities, and certain law enforcement agencies. An advisory meeting in January sought feedback from stakeholders on the proposal.
Key differences from the health care standard
In developing the general industry draft standard, Cal/OSHA relied heavily on the healthcare version as a model. Hence, the two rules would share many commonalities, with both requiring a written plan, training, and recordkeeping, although the general industry standard would be less prescriptive than its healthcare counterpart. For example, while the healthcare rule is very specific about the content of employee training, the general industry draft is less stringent, allowing employers greater flexibility to design a training program that addresses the unique needs and conditions of their workplaces.
Also unlike the health care standard, the general industry draft lacks a specific requirement for a violent incident log and does not mandate the reporting of injuries resulting from workplace violence to Cal/OSHA (although such injuries must be reported within 8 hours if they result in a serious injury, illness, or fatality as required by 8 CCR 342).
Written plan requirements
The backbone of both the existing healthcare standard (8 CCR 3342) and the draft standard for general industry, which would become 8 CCR 3343, is a written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP). This plan may either be incorporated into an employer’s existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), which all California employers must have, or maintained as a separate document. For general industry, the plan would be required to include the following ten elements:
- Persons responsible for implementing the plan
- Procedures for involving employees and employee representatives in developing, implementing, and reviewing the plan
- Methods to coordinate implementation of the plan with other employers (if applicable)
- Procedures for accepting and responding to reports of workplace violence and prohibiting retaliation against employees
- Procedures to ensure employees comply with the plan
- Procedures to communicate with employees about workplace violence matters without fear of reprisal
- Procedures to develop and provide training
- Procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards
- Procedures to correct workplace violence hazards in a timely manner, including emergency procedures
- Procedures for post-injury response and investigation
Notably excluded from the draft requirements for the WVPP are procedures for obtaining assistance from law enforcement, a requirement in the healthcare standard.
What to do now
Although the Workplace Violence Prevention in General Industry rule is still in draft phase, employers can and should take steps to prepare now. Even in the absence of a specific rule for workplace violence, all California employers have obligations under the state’s IIPP rule to identify, evaluate, and correct workplace hazards. If employees are exposed to the risk of violence on the job, employers have a duty to implement effective preventive and corrective measures.
Risk factors for workplace violence include:
- Exchanging money with the public
- Working alone or in isolated areas
- Working where alcohol is served
- Working late at night
- Working in areas with high crime rates
- Providing services and care
- Working with volatile, unstable people
Industries with an elevated risk of workplace violence include retail trade, ground passenger transportation (i.e., taxi drivers), food service and drinking establishments, local government (particularly law enforcement), health care and social assistance, and educational services. However, no employer, regardless of industry or type of operation, is immune from the risk of workplace violence; thus, all employers should assess their risk and develop a plan to prevent and respond to violent incidents.
To learn more about what California employers should do to prevent workplace violence and prepare for the upcoming general industry rule, attend BLR’s upcoming Cal/OSHA Summit 2018 from October 17-19 in San Diego, where Hector Alvarez of Alvarez Associates will deliver a session titled Preventing Workplace Violence in California through Hazard Assessments and Training. Attendees will leave the session with a thorough understanding of California laws regarding workplace violence, strategies to recognize and respond to the warning signs of violence, and valuable tips and resources for keeping the workplace safe.
Cal/OSHA Summit is a leading state-specific event for California employers and safety professionals to get cutting-edge developments on new safety regulations, compliance strategies, and management tactics. Attendees will learn proven strategies for acing Cal/OSHA inspections, avoiding the most common compliance mistakes, delivering excellent safety performance results, and building a strong culture of safety throughout your organization. Learn more here.