On September 20th 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 553 (SB 553), which requires California employers to establish, implement, and maintain an effective workplace violence prevention plan.  

While the requirements will take effect July 1, 2024, the time needed to prepare the required training and create the plans is considerable. California employers are advised to begin planning now.  

Compliance Snapshot  

  • SB 553 applies to all California employers, employees, places of employment and employer-provided housing, with some exceptions discussed below. 
  • Covered employers must develop and implement a violence prevention plan specific to their workplace. Plan development requires active involvement of employees in creating and implementing the plan. 
  • Employee training must be conducted when the plan is first implemented, and annually thereafter.  
  • Employers must be prepared to conduct ongoing workplace violence hazard inspections, with such procedures detailed in the plan. Hazard evaluation and inspections must be completed when the plan is first created, after each incident, and whenever the employer is made aware of a new hazard.  
  • In addition to investigating workplace violence incidents, employers must maintain an incident log along with other recordkeeping requirements.  

Background 

  • Cal/OSHA’s Standard Board has been working to adopt a general industry workplace violence standard for the past several years. This was put on hold while the Standards Board focused on addressing Covid-19 related workplace prevention standards.  
  • This year, the California legislature took matters into their own hands and passed SB 553, requiring employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. The law broadly defines workplace violence as any act of violence or threat of violence in the place of employment.  
  • It is important to note that SB 533 is intended as a placeholder and Cal/OSHA is required to adopt its own general workplace violence regulation by December 31, 2026.

Who is covered?  

All California employees and employers are covered by SB 533 with the following notable exemptions:  

What must be included in the violence prevention plan? 

The employer’s written violence prevention plan must detail a number of specific procedures related to workplace safety, including: 

  • Clear identification of the name or job title of the individual responsible for the plan; 
  • Description of how employees will have active participation and involvement in the plan. Participation includes ongoing employee identification of workplace hazards, training involvement and reporting incidents in the workplace;  
  • The employer’s response protocol to reports of workplace violence; 
  • Corrective procedures when hazards are identified; 
  • Post incident response and investigation practices; 
  • Plans for ongoing workplace violence prevention assessment, required inspections, and identification of potential hazards; 
  • Protocol for the workplace to obtain assistance from law enforcement, evacuation plans and responding to workplace violence emergencies; 
  • Employee training process; 
  • Details regarding ongoing employee communication about workplace violence including how an employee can report concerns without fear of retaliation; 
  • Procedures for ensuring compliance with the plan such as recognition for those who follow and exhibit safe work practices and disciplinary actions when necessary; and  
  • Annual evaluation of the plan.

The plan must also be in writing, easily accessible to all employees, specific to the worksite, and in effect at all times. The plan must be customized for different locations if the worksite locations pose different hazards.  

Additionally, the plan must be reviewed and revised annually, when a plan component appears to be ineffective, and after an incident of workplace violence occurs. 

The plan may be included in an employer’s existing Injury Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP) or as a standalone document. 

What are the training requirements of SB 553? 

Employee training must be conducted when the plan is first established, annually thereafter, and when changes are made to the plan.  

SB 553 training must be interactive, allowing employees the opportunity to ask questions with an individual knowledgeable about the employer’s plan. Training must outline how employees can be involved in and participate in the development of the workplace violence prevention plan.

Training must include:  

  • A review of the employer’s workplace violence prevention plan and workplace hazard specifics, along with education of SB 553 definitions and requirements; 
  •  Information on how employees can report incidents, how to respond to threats of violence, and strategies to avoid physical harm;  
  • Education on the incident log and the hazards specific to their job; and  
  • The unique hazards to each workplace location and various job functions. 

Given the requirements to tailor the training to work locations and job functions, employers will likely be required to be involved in developing trainings, rather than relying on a generalized training source.  

Recordkeeping and Investigation 

Employers have an obligation to investigate incidents and reports of workplace violence and maintain a detailed violence log for every incident. Specific information regarding the investigation must be recorded and maintained, though logs must exclude personal identifying information. Violence incident logs and other hazard identification records must be periodically reviewed and maintained for a minimum of 5 years. 

Additionally, employers have a duty to communicate the results of the investigation with the employee involved in reporting the concern.

Employers are also required to maintain training records for a minimum of one year. 

Records of hazard identification and correction, company training session records and the violence incident logs can be requested by employees and must be provided within 15 calendar days of request. In addition to these records, records or workplace violence incident investigations must be made available to Cal/OSHA upon request. 

 Will a model violence prevention plan be provided by the state? 

At this time, it is unclear whether the state will provide a model plan. Since the plan requirements of SB 533 require active employer and employee involvement, plans will be unique to each employer and will require considerable employer involvement, development and customizing. As such, employers should be prepared to customize their plan rather than adopting a ‘once size fits all’ plan approach.

Employer Action

  • Begin preparing a strategy to develop the required workplace violence prevention plan, create trainings, and identify individuals who will implement the plan and will be responsible for maintaining the plan going forward. 
  • Recognize that the employee involvement requirement is unlike other current California regulations. Begin to ask how your workplace will actively involve employees in the plan development and training. This may involve surveys or other company-wide initiatives.
  • Evaluate whether you will need additional plans customized for various workplace settings, locations, and jobs.
  • Determine whether to develop plans for workplaces not currently covered under SB 533. Though not required, it is best practice to put a written plan/policy in place by July 2024 to protect employers from potential workplace violence claims. 

Additional Resources 

The information and materials on this blog are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal or tax advice. Information provided in this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments and may vary by jurisdiction. The content on this blog is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any particular facts or circumstances. The use of this blog does not in any way establish an attorney-client relationship, nor should any such relationship be implied, and the contents do not constitute legal or tax advice. If you require legal or tax advice, please consult with a licensed attorney or tax professional in your jurisdiction. The contributing authors expressly disclaim all liability to any persons or entities with respect to any action or inaction based on the contents of this blog. © 2023 Sequoia Consulting Group. All Rights Reserved. 

Melanie Lindberg — Melanie is a Human Resources Business Partner for Sequoia One, where she supports clients through the ever changing employment landscape. On the weekends, Melanie enjoys going on hikes with friends, working on the latest DIY project, and going on day trips to Napa Valley with her husband and dog.