Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in CA: Key Points from Senate Bill 553

Workplace violence is a serious concern that can affect any workplace. The California State legislature recently passed Senate Bill 553, which, in section 6401.9 created a requirement for most employers not already covered by other workplace violence prevention regulations to develop a written workplace violence prevention plan (WVPP).

In our recent webinar on this topic, we went over the section of the new bill which outlines the requirement for a written plan and provided guidance on compliance. In this associated blog, we highlight the key points that employers need to consider while developing and implementing workplace violence prevention programs. 


California OSHA has provided resources on their new workplace violence page including a link to their template, FAQs, and educational materials. Woodruff Sawyer has provided additional resources such as an example assessment form, an employer-to-employer coordination form, and a violent incident log format. If you are interested in one of these forms feel free to contact your Woodruff Sawyer service team to obtain a copy.

Understanding the Scope

Certain industries, such as healthcare providers covered under Title 8, 3342, some law enforcement agencies covered under other Title 8 sections, and employers with employees who are 100% teleworkers and who choose where they work are exempt from this regulation.  Some employers with fewer than 10 employees are exempt but only if they have an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) in place and their employees are not accessible to the public. In a nutshell, most California employers that don’t currently have a workplace prevention plan that complies with SB 553 in place, or which are not covered by a different regulation, must develop an SB 553-compliant WVPP.

Compliance Deadlines

The written WVPP compliant with SB 553 and the accompanying required training must be completed by all covered employers by July 1, 2024. Cal OSHA has until December 2026 to make changes to the regulation and establish a full Title 8 section related to WVPPs. This means that potential changes to the current requirements could occur well after initial compliance is required.

Expanding the Definition of Workplace Violence

The definition of workplace violence has been broadened by this bill to include acts or threats of violent actions leading to physical trauma or stress, bullying, and harassment. In the past, some employers and plans were responsive to actual physical events but not always threats.

teammate comforting stressed frustrated female coworker upset

Four Types of Workplace Violence

This bill provides a classification system that divides workplace violence incidents into four distinct categories for the sake of recordkeeping and investigation. The regulation also requires a log be kept of all workplace violence incidents. These categories are part of the required and prescriptive log format

  • “Type 1 violence,” which means workplace violence 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 violence,” which means workplace violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or visitors.
  • “Type 3 violence,” which means workplace violence against an employee by a present or former employee, supervisor, or manager.
  • “Type 4 violence,” which means workplace violence committed in the workplace by a person who does not work there but has or is known to have had a personal relationship with an employee.

Importance of Written and Accessible Programs

The required written workplace violence prevention plan must be easily accessible to employees, employee representatives, and OSHA. The plan should be specific to each area of the workplace and should involve employees and representatives in its development and implementation. California OSHA has provided a template from which to work but it should be noted that in this case, California OSHA does not guarantee that following their template ensures compliance and they state as such in the introductory paragraphs. 

Importance of Training and Communication

The regulation does require training for employees on the written plan and other elements of workplace violence prevention. The training must be given when the program is established, annually, and whenever new or previously unrecognized hazards are identified or when the plan is changed. The training requirements are outlined this way in the template:

  • Review of the employer’s WVPP, how to obtain a copy of the employer’s plan at no cost, and how to participate in the development and implementation of the employer’s plan.
  • How to report workplace violence incidents or concerns to the employer or law enforcement without fear of reprisal.
  • Workplace violence hazards specific to the employees’ jobs, the corrective measures the employer has implemented, how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence, and strategies to avoid physical harm.
  • How to obtain copies of records pertaining to hazard identification, evaluation and correction, training records, and violent incident logs.
  • Opportunities for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable about the plan.

Incident Response and Investigations

Employers should have clear protocols for responding to workplace violence incidents, including alerting employees, evacuation plans, sheltering in place, and seeking assistance from designated security employees or external resources like law enforcement. Post-incident response and investigation should be conducted accurately and cooperatively with law enforcement and security professionals. Part of the regulation requirements post-violent incident are to fill out the violent incident log and to perform documented hazard assessments and effectiveness reviews of the program.

Compliance and Record Keeping

The regulation does outline recordkeeping requirements which include keeping all assessment and effectiveness review forms, other investigation documents, and violent incident log forms for five years and all training documentation for one year. Records are to be made accessible to employees and employee representatives within 15 days of request at no cost for copying and examination. One important note related to violent incident logs is that no information that would allow identification of the employees involved in the incident may be included in the log information.

Involving Employees in Program Development

The California Senate included employee involvement in the regulation as a key tenet. In the California template, examples of meeting this requirement included employee involvement in periodic meetings around the WVPP; assessments and, hazard corrections; including employee suggestions in training; employee involvement in reporting and investigating workplace violence; management communication and enforcement of WVPP rules; employees following the rules; and application of rules across all work areas.

If you have questions related to California SB553, 6401.9 please reach out to me or your Woodruff Sawyer service team. 



Table of Contents