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A Comprehensive Guide to California's SB 553: New Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP)

Sanju Kumari
10 Apr 2024
18 min read
A Comprehensive Guide to California's SB 553: New Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP)

California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553), also known as the New Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 20, 2023. Coming into effect from July 1, 2024, it is designed to ensure workers receive the same protections against workplace violence that healthcare workers have had in the state.

Let us understand this law in detail and understand some specific requirements for employers to implement SB 553.   

The Historical Context of California SB 553

SB 553 was introduced in response to the 2021 massacre at the Valley Transportation Authority railyard in San Jose, which highlighted the need for:

  • Enhanced safety protocols and
  • Solutions to Prevent Workplace Violence

Let’s understand the history behind its implementation. 

What Happened at the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Railyard?

On May 26, 2021, a VTA employee opened fire at the VTA light rail yard. This shooting resulted in multiple fatalities and injuries. See some major events below:

Shooting Incident

  • On the morning of May 26, 2021, a VTA employee, identified as Samuel Cassidy, arrived at the VTA light rail yard in San Jose, where he worked.
  • He was armed with multiple firearms and started shooting his coworkers.
  • The shooting resulted in the deaths of nine VTA employees
  • San Jose Police Department officers responded to reports of an active shooter at the VTA railyard. 
  • Upon arrival, they engaged the shooter in a gunfight. 
  • Cassidy ultimately died at the scene

The Community Impact

  • Mass shooting at the VTA railyard sparked mourning and outrage.
  • It renewed discussions about gun violence prevention measures
  • Also, there was a massive demand for government actions to address:
  • Workplace safety and
  • Mental health issues

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The Government Response

CA SB 553 was introduced in response to the tragic 2021 massacre at the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) railyard in San Jose, California. Mass shootings prompted legislative action as policymakers sought to:

  • Address the root causes of such incidents and
  • Enhance public safety measures

This law was sponsored by United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). 

To Whom Does the CA SB 553 Law Apply?

California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) applies to most employers in California. It covers all employees, workplaces, and employer-provided housing. However, there are exceptions for certain types of employers and workplaces. Specifically, SB 553 does not apply to:

  • Healthcare facilities and services are regulated under Section 3342 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.
  • Operations of facilities operated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that comply with Section 3203 of Title 8.
  • Law enforcement agencies as defined in Section 1001 of Title 11 of the California Code of Regulations.
  • Employees who telework from a location not controlled by the employer
  • Workplaces with fewer than 10 employees, who are not accessible to the public.

What are the Components of SB 553?

The employers must understand the components of a workplace violence prevention plan, which include:

  • Designating individuals responsible for implementing the plan
  • Establishing effective procedures for involving employees in the plan's development and implementation
  • Coordinating the plan's implementation with other employers, if necessary
  • Establishing procedures for handling and responding to reports of workplace violence
  • Ensuring employees comply with the plan's requirements
  • Communicating with employees about matters relating to workplace violence
  • Establishing emergency response protocols
  • Providing training to employees on recognizing and responding to workplace violence
  • Identifying and evaluating workplace violence hazards
  • Keeping records related to the plan and its implementation

Employers must familiarize themselves with these components and develop comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans. This will help in:

  • Promoting a safer work environment for employees and
  • Ensuring compliance with SB 553.

What are the Requirements for Employers Under SB 553?

California employers need to carefully review the requirements outlined in California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553), particularly Labor Code section 6401.9. Let’s see some major legal requirements:

Requirement I: Establishment of Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP)

  • The law mandates that employers establish, implement, and maintain a WVPP.
  • This plan must include various procedures, such as:
  • Employee participation
  • Coordination with other employers
  • Handling and responding to violence reports
  • Ensuring employee compliance
  • Communication with employees
  • Emergency response protocols
  • Training
  • Hazard identification, and
  • Recordkeeping.

What is the Model WVPP Issued by Cal/OSHA?

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has issued a model Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP), which is a template designed to assist employers. Employers don't need to use the model WVPP, but they may adopt it as a reference guide. 

The model Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) includes various questions and examples to guide employers in assessing risks specific to their workplaces. Additionally, Cal/OSHA has published a “Fact Sheet” for Employers, offering an overview of WVPP requirements.

Let’s see the outlines of the Fact Sheet:

  • Requirements for Creating a WVPP
  • It provides details on what elements should be included in the plan, such as:
  • Procedures for employee participation
  • Handling violence reports
  • Emergency protocols, and
  • Recordkeeping.
  • Violent Incident Log Requirements
  • Employers are instructed on how to maintain logs of violent incidents.
  • This log helps in tracking trends and identifying areas for improvement in the prevention plan.
  • Employer Responsibilities with Workplace Violence Recordkeeping
  • The Fact Sheet explains the obligations of employers regarding recordkeeping related to workplace violence incidents and the WVPP.
  • Employee Training on Workplace Violence
  • It emphasizes that the employees must be trained in recognizing, preventing, and responding to workplace violence.
  • It states that the training should cover:
  • Hazard identification
  • Corrective actions, and
  • Emergency procedures.

Requirement II: Provision of Training

Under SB 553, employers must provide training to their employees when the Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) is initially established and annually thereafter. This training is crucial for ensuring that employees can:

  • Identify and evaluate workplace hazards
  • Address unsafe conditions and practices, and
  • Respond effectively to workplace violence emergencies.

Let’s understand each of them in detail:

  • Identifying and Evaluating Workplace Hazards
  • Employees should be trained to recognize potential sources of workplace violence, such as:
  • Interactions with clients or customers
  • Access to cash or valuable goods
  • Work in isolated or high-crime areas.
  • Handling Unsafe Conditions and Practices
  • Training should include strategies for handling workplace hazards, such as:
  • Implementing security measures
  • Developing conflict resolution skills
  • Adjusting work processes to reduce risks.
  • Responding to Workplace Violence Emergencies
  • Employees should learn how to respond appropriately in the event of a violent incident.
  • This primarily includes giving training on:
  • How to report incidents?
  • How to seek assistance?
  • How to protect themselves and others from harm?

Requirement III: Maintenance of Records

Under SB 553, employers are required to maintain various records related to workplace violence prevention for a minimum of five years. These records include:

  • Workplace Violence Hazard Identification, Evaluation, and Correction Records:
  • Employers must document:
  • Workplace violence hazards and
  • Corrective actions taken to address those hazards
  • This documentation helps in tracking the implementation and effectiveness of hazard mitigation measures over time.
  • Workplace Violence Incident Investigation Records
  • Employers must keep records of any workplace violence incidents investigated following their Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP).
  • These records should document the following:
  • Details of the incident
  • The investigation process, and
  • Any corrective actions taken as a result of the investigation. 
  • Violent Incident Log
  • Employers must maintain a log of violent incidents that occur in the workplace.
  • This log should include information such as the following:
  • Date, time, and location of the incident
  • The nature of the incident
  • Individuals involved, and
  • Any actions taken in response

What are Non-Compliance Penalties?

Non-compliance with SB 553 poses significant financial risks for employers. The fines for violations can range from $18,000 to $25,000 per violation. Also, these fines can accumulate quickly, particularly if multiple violations are identified during inspections or investigations.

Thus, employers must take the requirements of SB 553 seriously and ensure they have implemented and maintained a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) following the law.

What is the Definition of Workplace Violence in SB 553?

Under California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553), workplace violence refers to any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs at the workplace or is work-related. This broad definition includes:

  • Physical violence
  • Threats
  • Intimidation
  • Harassment, or
  • Other disruptive behaviors that raise safety concerns for employees.

What is the Deadline for Employers Under SB 553?

Under SB 553, employers have until July 1, 2024, to comply with the requirements outlined in Section 6401.9. This deadline marks the effective date for implementing the provisions of the law. 

Will Other States Follow California and Implement SB 553?

It is possible that other states could follow California by passing similar legislation to address workplace violence. In fact, some states have already taken steps in this direction, for example, Nebraska's efforts to compensate for mental injuries resulting from workplace violence incidents under state law.

Additionally, The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also shown a willingness to address workplace safety issues, often taking inspiration from state-level initiatives like SB 553. 

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How Challenging is the Implementation of SB 553?

Implementing California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) presents significant challenges for employers due to the comprehensive requirements outlined in the legislation. Let’s have a look at some key challenges for employers:

  • Creation of a detailed Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) covering:
  • Employee participation
  • Incident response
  • Training, and
  • Compliance measures.
  • Mandatory recordkeeping for at least five years of:
  • Workplace violence incidents
  • Hazard evaluations, and
  • Training records
  • Annual review and updates of the WVPP to adapt to changing workplace conditions.
  • Provision of training to employees on recognizing and responding to workplace violence
  • Challenges for smaller employers in implementing SB 553 are due to resource constraints and compliance demands.

What are the Common Mistakes Employers Make When Implementing SB 553?

Employers make several mistakes while implementing California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553). This largely leads to resistance within the organization and sometimes leads to non-compliance.  

Let’s have a look at some common mistakes:

  • Neglecting Employee Participation
  • Employers fail to actively involve employees in various processes such as:
  • Plan development
  • Training
  • Hazard evaluation
  • Correction
  • Incident reporting/investigation
  • Poor Communication
  • Employers do not establish clear communication channels to gather employee input and respond rapidly to incidents.
  • Inadequate Training
  • It has been observed that some employers are providing insufficient or ineffective training on:
  • Job-specific hazards
  • Corrective actions and procedures
  • Lack of Comprehensive Plan
  • The employers are struggling to develop a comprehensive written plan that:
  • Designates responsibilities
  • Addresses specific hazards, and
  • Ensures effective response to reports of workplace violence.
  • Inadequate Incident Logging and Reporting
  • There are also reports of neglecting to maintain accurate records of workplace violence incidents and investigations.

What are the Best Practices for Implementing CA SB 553?

Implementing California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) requires careful planning and execution. Let’s understand how employers can follow best practices and remain compliant in simple steps:

  • Step I: Understand the Requirements
  • Thoroughly understand the specific requirements of SB 553.
  • Cover all the major ones, such as:
  • Development of a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan
  • Employee involvement, and
  • Provision of effective training
  • Step II: Conduct a Risk Assessment
  • Identify potential sources of workplace violence
  • Assess the level of risk in different workplace settings and scenarios.
  • Step III: Implement Corrective Measures
  • Take clear steps to address and correct identified risks, including the implementation of enhanced safety measures and legal compliance.
  • Step IV: Provide Comprehensive Staff Training
  • Develop a comprehensive training program 
  • Educates employees about safe work practices
  • Step V: Create a Reporting System
  • Establish a robust system for documenting workplace violence incidents.
  • Develop a process following which employees can report incidents quickly and confidentially.
  • Step VI: Perform Routine Audits 
  • Regularly audit your violence prevention plan 
  • Keep assessing and making necessary adjustments.
  • Step VII: Perform Record Keeping
  • Keep detailed records of all activities related to workplace violence prevention, including:
  • Training sessions
  • Incident reports, and
  • Plan evaluations
  • Step VIII: Stay Informed on Cal/OSHA Standards
  • Stay updated with Cal/OSHA's proposed standards and rulemaking on workplace violence prevention.
  • This will help you remain compliant and not attract legal penalties.
  • Step IX: Prepare for the Effective Date
  • Ensure that your workplace is fully compliant with SB 553 by the effective date of July 1, 2024.

Conclusion

California Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) will come into effect from July 1, 2024. It requires most California employers to enhance workplace safety and prevent instances of violence. Stemming from the tragic 2021 massacre at the Valley Transportation Authority railyard in San Jose, SB 553 mandates the development and implementation of comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plans (WVPP). 

The law requires all employers to meet its requirements before the effective date. Failure to do so can lead to non-compliance and attract legal penalties ranging from $18,000 to $25,000 per violation.

To assist employers in developing Workplace Violence Prevention Plans, Cal/OSHA has also provided a model WVPP and the Fact Sheet. Thus, employers must prioritize workplace safety and implement the prevention measures outlined in SB 553. This will help create a working environment where employees can thrive without fear of violence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is Bill 553 in California?

Senate Bill 553 (SB 553) was passed into law in California on September 30, 2023, as a response to the increasing occurrences of mass shootings and incidents of workplace violence. The legislation will come into effect from July 1, 2024, and mandates that employers establish a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) to minimize instances of workplace violence.

2. Is workplace violence training mandatory in California?

Yes, workplace violence training is mandatory in California starting from July 1, 2024, for most employers under Senate Bill 553 (SB 553). The training must cover specific topics, including familiarizing employees with the plan, the definitions, and requirements of the new law, and how to report workplace violence incidents without fear of retaliation. 

3. What is the definition of workplace violence under SB 553?

Under SB 553, workplace violence is defined as any act or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment. It typically includes the threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a likelihood of resulting in, injury, stress, or psychological trauma.

4. Is California an OSHA state?

Yes, California is an OSHA state. The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) is the state's division responsible for enforcing workplace safety and health regulations.

Sanju Kumari

Sanju has a wealth of experience and expertise in instructional design, bringing innovative ideas and a fresh perspective to e-learning content development. She is passionate about merging technology and creativity for dynamic e-learning. Her passion for creating engaging and effective learning experiences aligns perfectly with Calibr's commitment to excellence. She also enjoys writing about e-learning trends in the corporate world.