SB 553: How to Meet California’s Workplace Violence Prevention Mandate Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that nearly two million US workers experience workplace violence each year. As a result, organizations find themselves under growing pressure from employees and state legislatures to take proactive steps to ensure a safe workplace for all. 

In a survey by Traliant, 76% of employees indicated that their employers have workplace violence plans in place. However, only 60% expressed confidence in their employer’s ability to execute these plans effectively in the event of an incident. This discrepancy highlights the urgent need for organizations to not only create workplace violence prevention plans, but also ensure their practical implementation.

In a groundbreaking initiative, Governor Gavin Newsom signed California Senate Bill (SB) 553 into law, creating the first general-industry safety requirement for workplace violence prevention in the US. This means that virtually every employer in California must have a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan in place that meets specific requirements, and it must be in place by July 1, 2024.

While California is the first state to implement this type of law, it won’t be long before other states follow in their footsteps. Whether your organization is in California or you’re just getting ahead, read our guide to SB 553 and our interpretation of how to meet its requirements.

This guide is for general information purposes only. Contact your legal team for advice on how to comply with any workplace legislature.

Contents

What is California SB 553?

California Senate Bill (SB) 553 requires most California employers to take steps to prevent and respond to workplace violence. Effective July 1, 2024, under Section 6401.9 employers will need to meet a number of specific requirements surrounding the development, implementation, execution and maintenance of a workplace violence prevention plan. 

The key takeaways of California SB 553 include:

  • Almost all employers will be covered by the law, with very few exceptions
  • Employees must participate in the development and implementation of a workplace violence plan
  • The plan can be made part of the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) or be its own standalone plan
  • The plan needs to be customized to job roles and specific workplace hazards
  • Interactive training with a Q&A component must be implemented, with high-risk employers considering offering training through third-party training providers and local law enforcement
  • Employers must keep a detailed violent incident log along with incident investigation, inspection and training records

Under SB 553, there are 4 distinct types of workplace violence:

Type 1: Workplace violence committed by someone who has no legitimate business interests at the site

Type 2: Violence directed at employees by customers, patients, students, inmates or prisoners

Type 3: Violence between 2 current employees or 1 current and 1 former

Type 4: Violence committed by a non-employee who has a personal relationship with an employee 

Though it might seem like there are a lot of hoops to jump through, these steps will help employers keep their staff safe and help the entire workforce understand what to do if there is an incident of workplace violence. 

So, if you’re responsible for your organization’s workplace safety, what do you need to do to meet SB 553 requirements or futureproof your organization if a similar law comes into effect in your state? 

How to meet SB 553 requirements

To ensure that you meet California’s SB 553 requirements, it’s important to get proper legal advice. But to help you get started with your plans to comply with the law, we’ve put together 5 steps you can take to get ready for July 1:

1. Create a workplace violence prevention plan

If you haven’t got one already, creating a workplace violence prevention plan (WVPP) is the first step. Alongside the plan, you must train all employees on workplace violence matters, keep a violent incident log and keep records of all workplace violence-related training that you carry out. 

Our blog linked above tells you the 7 key elements of a workplace violence prevention plan, but there are also specific requirements that your WVPP must include to be compliant with SB 553:

a snapshot of the little green button workplace violence prevention plan checklist in an oval shape

  • Identify at least 1 person who is responsible for implementing the WVPP
  • Involve employees in developing and implementing the WVPP as well as to identify, evaluate and correct workplace violence hazards
  • Have a system for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards
  • Offer a training program that provides instructions specific to an employee’s particular hazards
  • Have procedures to correct unsafe conditions and work practices in a timely manner, and have a system for ensuring that employees comply with safe practices
  • Have procedures to deal with employees who don’t comply with safe practices, which may include disciplinary proceedings
  • Include guidelines on how employees can report an incident, and offer support services for anyone affected
  • Have procedures for investigating any employee reports
  • Have procedures for responding to potential or actual workplace violence emergencies, including the means to alert employees of the emergency
  • Include guidelines on post-incident response and investigation to prevent the event from happening again

Having a way to alert staff of an emergency is one of the best ways to help deal with potential or actual workplace violence incidents quickly. Little Green Button’s panic button software can help you meet this part of SB 553. 

Download our workplace violence prevention plan template to help you start to create your WVPP.

2. Ensure your plan complies with the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)

Your WVPP can form part of your IIPP, or you can create a standalone plan. Whichever you choose, you must ensure that you include the following in your WVPP:

  • Periodic inspections when new substances, processes or equipment are introduced into the workplace
  • Inspections when the employer becomes aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard
  • A system for communicating occupational safety, including training, written communication, meetings or other means of communication, such as posting on company intranets or company-wide emails
  • Offer employees the opportunity to receive a copy of any workplace injury and illness reports no later than 5 business days after the request is made

3. Offer adequate training

It’s important to offer training on the workplace violence prevention plan when you initially implement it and then run training sessions yearly after that. You must include the following in your training plan:

  • How employees can get copies of the WVPP and participate in its development
  • Definitions and requirements of SB 553
  • How to report incidents of workplace violence and address concerns about any consequences for reporting
  • Any workplace hazards that are specific to a particular employee or group of employees’ job role
  • Any corrective measures you’ve implemented
  • How to seek help to prevent or respond to a workplace violence incident
  • The violent incident log and how to get copies of any violent incidents 
  • An interactive Q&A session with someone who knows about the WVPP 

Training is crucial to keep employees up to date with any new workplace hazards or procedures that you’ve put in place. You may decide that you want to carry out training sessions more often than annually.

4. Record incidents of violence

Hopefully you won’t have to update this often, but SB 553 states that you must record every violent incident that occurs in a violent incident log. The violent incident log must include the following information:

  • The date, time and location of the incident
  • Type of workplace violence 
  • Detailed description of the incident
  • Classification of the offender, e.g. client, customer, family member, co-worker etc.
  • Description of the location of the incident and the circumstances, e.g. a reception area with many people around, a poorly-lit parking lot etc.
  • Type of violence, e.g. physical force, threats, use of a weapon, sexual assault
  • Consequences of the incident, e.g. law enforcement intervention
  • Name and job title of the person who logged the incident and the date the log was completed

a screenshot of the lgb alerts dashboard showing recent alerts made on the network

It’s important to note that no personal identifying information must be kept in the log. The information from the log must come from an employee who witnessed the incident, other witness statements or findings from an investigation.

All violent incident logs must be retained for a minimum of a year, although your organization may find it beneficial to retain them for longer.

Little Green Button’s reporting module makes it easy to gather information for a violent incident log if someone raises an alert through the panic button during the incident. You’ll find a detailed log of alerts, with information on:

  • The name of the person who triggered the alert
  • The date and time it was raised
  • The type of alert – e.g. intruder, lockdown, or active shooter
  • Location of the alert and which device it was raised from
  • Responders and response times
  • Escalation levels 

Get a free 14-day trial of Little Green Button and see how it could help you meet SB 553.

5. Properly maintain records

Whether it’s part of your compliance for SB 553 or not, you must maintain your records on workplace violence properly. The law states that you must keep records of every workplace violence hazard as well as the identification, evaluation and correction of each hazard for a minimum of 5 years. 

You must also keep all training records, violent incident logs and records of investigations for at least a year, though as we said most organizations will find it beneficial to keep them for longer.

Are healthcare organizations required to comply with SB 553?

No, healthcare organizations are one of the few exemptions from SB 553. This is because there is already violence prevention regulation covered by Cal/OSHA regulation 3342: Violence Prevention in Healthcare.

To find out more about how to prevent rising violence against healthcare workers, read our blog.

Addressing workplace violence proactively is not just a legal obligation; it’s an ethical and moral responsibility for employers. 

With 90% of Traliant survey respondents believing that other states should adopt similar legislation to California, all organizations across the US should consider creating a workplace violence prevention plan to get ahead of any legislative changes. It’s the right thing to do to contribute to a safer, healthier and more secure work environment for all.

This guide is for general information purposes only. Contact your legal team for advice on how to comply with any workplace legislature.