Workplace Violence Prevention Plans are Different. Here's Why.

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Workplace violence prevention plans are very different from other workplace policies and plans. Here's why.

California’s ground breaking workplace violence prevention law goes into effect on July 1st. For employers, developing and implementing an effective workplace violence prevention plan, is very different from developing and implementing your other types of workplace policies.

These differences matter to the effectiveness of your violence prevention plan, and what’s involved in creating your plan.

I learned about violence, its causes, and its prevention, through my 30 years of conducting civil and criminal litigation investigations into violence incidents. Including cases successfully brought against employers over violence targeting employees, clients, and customers. And through conducting third-party internal fact-finding investigations on behalf of employers into workplace violence incidents and threats. And finally, while learning to keep myself safe while working in some very dangerous environments.

Download my free CA workplace violence prevention checklist to help guide you while creating your workplace violence prevention plan.  

 Workplace Violence Prevention Plans Require Employee Input

California’s new workplace violence prevention law requires that employers consult with employees while developing a violence prevention plan. It requires that employers have:

Effective procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan, including, but not limited to, through their participation in identifying, evaluating, and correcting workplace violence hazards, in designing and implementing training, and in reporting and investigating workplace violence incidents.”

 This level of employee involvement is a significant departure from most employment related policies. As your employees are required to be involved in all facets of the plan development and implementation. 

Typical employment policies, such as non-discrimination, sexual harassment, absenteeism, and substance abuse, are not created with employee input and feedback.

Those types of policies are top down in development and implementation. And are essentially dictates to employees about behavior they can and cannot do in the workplace.

Physical Premises Evaluation

California’s new workplace violence prevention law requires employers to assess the physical workplace to see whether it contributes to workplace violence safety hazards, and to ensure that employees have the ability to exit their workplace safely, or to shelter in place, if necessary. 

Conducting these types of physical premises evaluations do not occur with other workplace policies, which are based upon creating a behaviorally appropriate workplace.

Understanding what physical aspects of the workplace can contribute to safety hazards and to allow employees to avoid an ongoing incident requires a different way of thinking than other policies.

I’ve previously explored the processes of conducting workplace violence safety hazards, including employee surveys and interviews, and assessing your physical premises. Read about them here

Requires Training to Be Conducted to a Different Level

California’s new workplace violence prevention law also requires that training be conducted differently than most other workplace issues.

While there are some similarities in training between sexual harassment and discrimination types of policies, and training in the types of behaviors that constitute workplace violence and are prohibited in the workplace, and how to report those types of incidents, the training similarities end there.

Employers must train employees in strategies to avoid physical harm from workplace violence. California does not specify what that means, but does require employee input to guide employers on what to train them in. 

Workplace violence, from any of the four source types, can kill, or lead to serious injury. Sometimes it takes the shape of threats, but often times it takes a more physically violent form, including from someone with a weapon.

The skillset that employees must have to avoid physical harm from workplace violence is completely different from what it takes to tell someone engaged in sexual harassment to back off. 

I’ve previously covered in-depth different types of trainings on strategies to avoid physical harm. You can read about them here

Correcting Safety Hazards

Because most other workplace policies and plans relate to prohibited behavior. There’s limited attention paid to assessing and correcting potential hazards. These policies are reactive in nature.

Corrections in most other types of plans focus on behavior modification, physical separation, and if necessary termination after the conduct has occurred.

When developing a workplace violence prevention plan, after the fact is too late when it comes to safety.

California in its new workplace violence prevention law requires employers to assess and correct safety hazards before they can impact employees. 

It requires training employees in recognizing and reporting safety hazards specifically so that an employer knows about them and  can remediate the safety hazards that are brought to their attention, or that they uncover independently.

From a litigation standpoint, we used to look at what employees “knew or should have known” about the violence hazards as part of the metric for determining if an incident fell within worker’s compensation or crossed into full blown liability.

Workplace violence safety hazards vary. Depending upon on the type of work performed, and the location where the work is performed. 

In some cases, remediation efforts will focus on the physical environment, such as lighting, and parking lot access. But other times, those safety hazards that will need to be remediated occur in the community, or in client’s homes and places of business.

The requirement to remediate doesn’t go away because employees work off-site. But the challenges certainly increase.

Safety threats can be human related, or environmentally related, at your location and off-site locations too.

As a result, workplace violence prevention plans require not just an approach to recognize safety hazards, but also to know enough about those safety hazards to understand how to remediate them.

The challenge with remediation in workplace violence prevention is that the source of the safety hazard may or may not be under the employer’s control.

If you’d like someone familiar with workplace violence prevention to look over the workplace violence prevention plan and program you’re developing, send me an email at [email protected].

California's new workplace violence prevention law is serious about protecting employees. Want help implementing your plan?

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