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California Employers: Senate Bill 553 Deadline is July 1

On Sept. 30, 2023, California's Senate passed Senate Bill 553, which mandates employers to establish a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Program (WVPP) by July 1, 2024. The bill modifies the state labor code by adding section 6401.9 and expands on the 2017 Cal-OSHA regulation that required a workplace violence prevention plan for the healthcare industry.

SB 553 also introduces new employee protections utilizing Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs). Before this bill, employers had the authority to file for a TRO on behalf of an employee. As of January 1, 2025, SB553 allows collective bargaining units’ representatives to file a TRO on behalf of their members. The bill also allows employees to remain anonymous if a TRO is filed on their behalf.

The bill sets out the fundamental requirements for employers due by July 1, 2024, and instructs Cal-OSHA to develop new standards by December 2025, with final approval no later than December 2026. The requirements will likely be updated as Cal-OSHA formulates its standard leading up to the 2026 deadline. In the meantime, we have outlined the requirements for employers below and provided links to various resources to assist in creating a plan.

Employers can include their Workplace Violence Prevention Program (WVPP) in their existing Injury and Illness Program (IIPP) Title 8, Section 3203, or keep the program document separate. We recommend reviewing your internal Emergency Action Plans (EAP) and Business Continuity Plans (BCP) to align relevant response sections. It's advisable to carefully review the requirements to ensure all obligations are met rather than assuming current materials meet expectations.

The new labor code applies to all California employers except for the following listed in section (b)(2) of the labor code and those who comply with Cal-OSHA’s IIPP requirements found in Title 8, Section 3203. Employers should review the exemptions carefully to ensure they comply.  

Exempt employers include: 

  • Healthcare facilities and other operations are covered by Cal-OSHA’s standard for Violence Prevention in Health Care found in Title 8, section 3342 of Cal-OSHA’s General Industry Safety Orders.

  • Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities. 

  • Law enforcement agencies that are a “department or participating department” as defined in Section 1001 of Title 11.

  • Employees who telework from a location of the employee's choice, which is not under the employer's control.

  • Places of employment under ten employees working at any given time that are not accessible to the public.

 After reviewing exemptions, employers should focus on: 

  1. Developing and implementing an effective written WVPP plan.

  2. Developing and delivering training.

  3. Maintaining comprehensive records and program oversight.

The Written Plan

Cal-OSHA published a Word-based template for employers to use as a starting point for the program, which should include the following: 

  • Designated individuals within your organization who will implement the WVPP and address workplace violence concerns.  

  • Procedure to actively involve employees in developing and implementing the plan, including identifying hazards, evaluating the workplace, designing training, and investigating incidents.  

  • Identify, evaluate, and correct workplace violence hazards.

  • Procedure for responding to reports of workplace violence.

  • Detail how the employer will prohibit employee retaliation and maintain compliance with the program.

  • Communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters.

  • Describe how actual and potential emergencies will be responded to. 

  • Develop and provide initial and annual training for employees.

  • Maintain a violent incident log for every incident as specified in the Bill.

  • Perform post-incident response and investigations.

Training

Employers must provide training for all applicable employees initially and annually. Training and related material should be interactive and tailored to the employee's education level, literacy, and language. Live training, with the opportunity for questions and answers, is recommended over videos. Training points required by the new bill include:

  • How to obtain a copy of your plan.

  • How employees’ can participate in the development and implementation of the plan and communicate with the designated plan coordinator.

  • Definitions and requirements required by the plan.

  • How employees should report workplace violence incidents or concerns.

  • Job-specific workplace violence hazards and the corrective measures implemented.

  • How to obtain assistance to prevent or respond to violence and strategies to avoid physical harm.

  • How to obtain copies of the Violent Incident Log. 

  • How your organization will respond to violent emergencies, evacuations, and sheltering plans.

Recordkeeping

The standard lists retention times for recordkeeping requirements and requires that documents be made available to Cal-OSHA inspectors when requested. The main documents required are:

  • Written Program

  • Violent Incident Log

  • Training Records

  • Incident investigation records

  • OSHA Form 300 Log

  • Workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and controls

Resources

Cal-OSHA has published a comprehensive template that can be downloaded from their website.  They have also created several employer and employee fact sheets linked below that outline the general requirements of the program: 

California employers should review the template provided by Cal-OSHA soon, as the July 1 deadline is approaching. Please contact your Newfront contact for more guidance on implementing your plan.  

Scott Rhymes
The Author
Scott Rhymes

Director of Risk Control Services, Newfront

As Newfont’s Director of Risk Control, Scott leads a team of consultants who provide risk control and safety consulting services to clients designed to lower our client’s total cost of risk. Newfront risk control consultants partner with clients to increase risk awareness and reduce occupational, property, liability, and auto exposures by focusing on the client’s overall safety and risk management systems. Scott has over 27 years of experience in the risk management field, including direct employer-side experience directing programs for large municipal infrastructure districts, manufacturing and logistics, and biotech. Scott is also a regular guest speaker at local industry groups and university certificate programs.

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