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What frontline leaders need to know about recent workplace violence prevention legislation

Posted on: April 2, 2024Updated on: April 17, 2024By: John Gorrie

The clock is ticking on implementing a workplace violence prevention plan as part of California’s Bill 533, New York’s Retail Worker Safety Act and other recent legislation. Here’s what frontline leaders need to know.

California’s Senate Bill 553

In California, Senate Bill No. 553 requires every employer in the state to establish, implement and maintain a workplace violence prevention plan by July 1, 2024. The bill defines workplace violence as any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment, including: 

  • The threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, psychological trauma, or stress, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.
  • An incident involving a threat or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, including the use of common objects as weapons, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.

The bill furthermore notes the four main types of workplace violence directed at employees: 

Type 1: 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: Committed by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates or visitors.

Type 3: Committed by a present or former employee, supervisor or manager.

Type 4: Committed by a person who does not work there, but has or is known to have had a personal relationship with an employee.

The bill requires employers to develop a written workplace violence prevention plan and show that it has been implemented. This includes providing “effective training to employees on the workplace violence prevention plan,” including additional training when a new or previously unrecognized hazard has been identified. The bill also requires training records, as well as records of workplace violence hazard identification. 

New York’s Retail Worker Safety Act

Similar legislation in New York was  recently introduced; S8358, also known as the Retail Worker Safety Act, requires retail worker employers to develop and implement programs to prevent workplace violence, provide training on the programs to employees and conduct annual reviews of the programs: 

“Violence against retail workers is a growing problem in New York. From verbal harassment that often leads to physical violence, all the way to racially motivated  mass shootings of retail workers and customers, retail workers are on the front lines of violence in our society. Given that  these  stores  offer  essential  necessities  to  the public, this violence is also a threat to public health and safety.”

What workplace violence prevention legislation means for frontline organizations 

With violence, theft and confrontations on the rise in retail, grocery and other frontline workplaces, 40% of grocery and retail associates feel scared to go to work, and a whopping 71% of frontline managers are concerned with the security and personal safety of their workers and customers. Our annual research also found that a whopping 93% of frontline workers want to share health and safety concerns with their organization. Clearly, safety is top of mind. 

This recent legislation is an opportunity to address these fears and invest in providing the resources, training and tools that frontline workers desperately need to feel safe throughout their shifts. 

Even for organizations that already have a workplace violence prevention training plan in place, this legislation is also geared toward increasing accountability, with more measurement and tracking, including routine audits,  plan evaluation and robust record-keeping. This legislation is an exciting opportunity for many retailers to enhance their record-keeping when it comes to their training programs. 

What to do next

In terms of what frontline organizations need to do to comply with their state’s updated regulations, it depends on the policies and plans already in place. Developing a comprehensive violence prevention plan and tailoring it to the specific needs of your workforce is a complex process. Your first step should be to identify what SOPs, plans and processes are already in place, and start to consolidate that documentation to see what gaps need to be addressed. In the case of California’s legislation, for example, violence prevention plans must include procedures to: 

  1. Obtain the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan, and to coordinate the implementation of the plan to ensure that those employers and employees understand their respective roles.
  2. Accept and respond to reports of workplace violence, and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report.
  3. Ensure that supervisory and nonsupervisory employees comply with the plan.
  4. Communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters.
  5. Respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies.
  6. Develop and provide required training.
  7. Identify, evaluate and correct workplace violence hazards.
  8. Review the effectiveness of the plan and revise the plan as needed. 

Be sure to look not just at the training programs in place, but the methods being used to measure and evaluate that training—a critical part of this new legislation. And remember: while this legislation might feel overwhelming at first, at the core is a simpler premise—taking care of your people. Giving your frontline workers a sense of security and safety as they come to work each day is well worth the investment. 

John Gorrie

John Gorrie is a Customer Success Director at Axonify. He spends his days collaborating and strategizing with frontline organizations to help them achieve their business outcomes.