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In a significant move towards enhancing workplace safety for retail workers, the New York State Assembly recently passed the “Retail Worker Safety Act,” which aims to mitigate workplace violence. This legislation, formally known as Assembly Bill A8947, has passed the Assembly and Senate and is waiting to proceed to Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk.

Key provisions of the New York Retail Worker Safety Act

The Retail Worker Safety Act mandates several critical measures to ensure the safety of retail workers. Among the primary requirements are:

Written workplace violence prevention programs

Retail employers must develop and implement detailed plans addressing potential violence in the workplace. These programs must identify specific risk factors and outline preventative strategies tailored to their unique work environments.

Workplace violence training

Employers must provide interactive training sessions for their employees. These sessions need to cover essential topics such as de-escalation techniques and active shooter response drills, equipping workers with the skills to effectively manage and respond to violent situations. At this time it is unclear whether training is expected to be required in-person or if online will meet or exceed the requirement.

Access to panic buttons

Retail employers with 500 or more employees nationwide will be required to install panic buttons by January 1, 2027. When activated, these buttons will enable immediate dispatch of local law enforcement, providing a rapid response mechanism in case of an emergency.

Legislative journey and expected impact of the New York Retail Worker Safety Act

The Retail Worker Safety Act experienced a series of amendments and delays during its journey through the Assembly. After multiple revisions and a period of being laid aside, it finally passed and was sent to the Senate for further consideration. The bill has a companion in the Senate, S8358, which mirrors the Assembly’s version.

If both legislative bodies pass the bill, it will be presented to Governor Kathy Hochul. She will then have 10 days to either sign or veto the legislation. If Hochul takes no action within this period, the bill will automatically become law.

The bill’s provisions, including the requirement for a written workplace violence prevention program and training, will become effective 180 days after enactment. The specific requirement for panic buttons will take effect on January 1, 2027, giving employers ample time to comply.

A pioneering effort in workplace safety

New York’s initiative follows California’s lead, where CA Senate Bill 553, the Workplace Violence Prevention Act was recently passed, making California the first state to enact a dedicated workplace violence prevention law. The Retail Worker Safety Act is one of the earliest comprehensive state measures to address the rising issue of workplace violence in the retail sector. By instituting these safety protocols, New York sets a precedent other states will likely follow.

Introducing mandatory workplace violence prevention programs and training represents a significant step forward in protecting retail workers. These measures ensure employees are aware of potential risks and prepared to respond effectively in crisis situations. Including panic buttons for larger employers adds a layer of security, providing a direct line to law enforcement when needed most.

Broader implications for employers

As New York and California lead the charge in legislating workplace violence prevention, other states are likely to adopt similar measures. Retail employers nationwide should anticipate a growing trend towards increased safety regulations and consider proactive measures to align with these evolving standards.

Implementing the Retail Worker Safety Act underscores the importance of prioritizing employee safety in the retail industry. By establishing clear guidelines and mandatory training, the law aims to create a safer, more secure work environment for retail employees. Employers are encouraged to stay informed about legislative changes and ensure compliance with new safety protocols to protect their workforce and foster a safer workplace culture.

Overall, the passage of the Retail Worker Safety Act by the New York State Assembly marks a pivotal moment in the effort to combat workplace violence in the retail sector. As the bill advances to the Senate and potentially to Governor Hochul’s desk, it represents a significant stride towards ensuring the safety and well-being of retail workers. With comprehensive violence prevention programs, interactive training, and the implementation of panic buttons, New York is leading the way in establishing robust protections for its retail workforce.

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