What dental practices need to know about workplace violence and safety

California enacted a new law in 2023 that mandates almost all employers (including dental practices) develop a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan by July 1, 2024. This law, overseen by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA), aims to enhance workplace safety and reduce the risk of violence.

Some exclusions to this law include healthcare facilities already complying with Cal-OSHA's Violence Prevention in Health Care regulation, employees teleworking from a location not controlled by the employer, small workplaces with fewer than 10 employees not accessible to the public, facilities operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and law enforcement agencies.

The new law requires employers to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan specific to their business, either as a standalone document or as part of its injury and illness prevention plan. The plan must include roughly 13 components, and employee participation in its development is mandatory. Employers must also train employees on the plan, create workplace violence incident logs, and maintain records for up to five years.

Workplace violence is defined as any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment, including physical force resulting in injury or psychological trauma; incidents involving firearms or dangerous weapons; and various types of violence, such as violence by individuals with no legitimate business at the worksite (type one), violence directed at employees by customers or visitors (type two), violence against an employee by a present or former employee (type three), and violence by a person with a personal relationship to an employee (type four).

Employers must conduct training with employees upon initial implementation of the plan (by July 1, 2024), annually thereafter, and periodically when changes to the plan are made or new threats are recognized. Training must include interactive sessions with a knowledgeable person about the plan.

Employers must also maintain various records, including plan training records for one year; workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction records for five years; workplace violence incident logs for five years; and workplace violence incident investigations for five years. These records must be made available to Cal-OSHA upon request.

While this law is for California businesses, having a plan in whatever state you reside and work in is a good idea. To help with that, our friends at Bent Erickson & Associates have put together a summary of this California law in addition to providing a sample checklist that you can use to help your practice form a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. You can find that information here.

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