California’s New Workplace Violence Prevention Program:What Employers Need to Know

By: Jizell K. Lopez

On September 30, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed California Senate Bill 553 (“SB 553”) into law. Among other things, SB 553 added section 6401.9 to the California Labor Code, which requires that virtually all employers, implement a workplace violence prevention plan by no later than July 1, 2024.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 (“Cal-OSHA”) already imposes many safety-related obligations on employers, including the requirement that they establish, implement, and maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program (“IIPP”). SB 553, which is the first law of its kind in the nation, now requires that employers in non-healthcare settings take additional steps to address the specific threat of workplace violence. As mentioned above, this new law covers virtually all employers. However there are some exceptions, including: places of employments with fewer than 10 employees—these locations must not be accessible to the public; teleworking employees; healthcare facilities already covered by Cal/OSHA’s Workplace Violence in Healthcare Standards; law enforcement agencies; and certain public entity employers. 

Starting July 1, 2024, covered employers must establish, implement, and maintain a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan and must meet four broad categories of obligations: (1) the creation of a workplace violence prevention plan; (2) the creation of a workplace violence incident log; (3) employee training requirements; and (4) recordkeeping requirements.   

Creating a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

The intention of this violence prevention program is to provide a roadmap to both employees and employers to address actual and potential incidents of workplace violence. By July 1st, employees and employers should be able to identify and mitigate against workplace violence incidents or threats. Labor Code section 6401.9 defines “workplace violence” as any action of violence or threat (excluding lawful acts of self-defense and defense of others) that occurs at a worksite. The Labor Code further provides definitions for four types of “workplace violence” that employers must be able to recognize and identify in its incident log and train employees to recognize these specific types of workplace violence:

  • “Type 1 Violence”—workplace violence committed by a person who has no legitimate business at the worksite, including violent acts by anyone who enters the workplace or approaches workers with the intent to commit a crime.
  • “Type 2 Violence”—workplace violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or visitors.
  • “Type 3 violence”— workplace violence against an employee by a present or former employee, supervisor, or manager.
  • “Type 4 violence”— 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.
  • The Workplace Violence Prevention Plan must include the following:
  • Names or job titles of individuals responsible for the plan;
  • Procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees and employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan, including hazard identification and evaluation, training, and incident reporting;
  • Methods the employer will use to coordinate implementation of the plan with other employers, when applicable, to ensure that those employers and employees understand their respective roles, as provided in the plan;
  • Procedures for the employer to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence and to prohibit retaliation;
  • Procedures to ensure that supervisory and non-supervisory employees comply with the plan;
  • Procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters, including how employees can report violent incidents, threats, or other workplace violence concerns, how employee concerns will be investigated, and how employees will be informed of investigation results and corrective actions;
  • Procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies, including how employees will be alerted, evacuation and sheltering plans, and how to obtain staff and law enforcement assistance;
  • Training procedures;
  • Procedures to identify, evaluate, and correct workplace violence hazards, including periodic inspections;
  • Procedures for post incident response and investigation; and
  • Procedures to review the effectiveness of the plan itself, including potential revisions.

For convenience, Cal-OSHA has released a model Workplace Violence Prevention Program for employers to use. This can be found directly on Cal-OSHA’s website.

Violent Incident Log Requirements

Employers must document and maintain a log of all incidents of workplace violence, even if the incident did not result in an injury. The log record must be based on information solicited from the employees who experienced the workplace violence, witness statements, and investigation findings. Further, the log must be anonymous and must be periodically reviewed.

The log must include the following information:

  • Incident date, time, location.
  • Workplace violence “Type” (1, 2, 3, and/or 4).
  • Detailed description of the incident.
  • Classification of who committed the violence.
  • The circumstances at the time of the incident.
  • Where the incident occurred.
  • Specific incident characteristics, such as physical attacks, weapon involvement, threats, sexual assault, animal incidents, or other events.
  • What the consequences of the incident were, including any involvement of law enforcement.
  • What steps were taken to protect employees from further threat or hazards.
  • Who completed the log, including their name, job title, and the date completed.

Employee Training

Employers must also provide employee training regarding the hazards specific to that employer’s workplace by July 1, 2024 and annually thereafter. The training must address all of the following:

  • The Company’s plan and how to access it at no cost.
  • How to participate in development and implementation of the employer’s plan.
  • The “definitions and requirements” in SB No. 553.
  • 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.
  • Details about the violence incident log, and how to obtain copies of records (described below).
  • An opportunity for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable about the employer’s plan.

Recordkeeping Requirements

Finally, employers must also comply with certain recordkeeping obligations and retention periods as follows:

  • Records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction: 5 years.
  • Training records shall be created and maintained and include training dates, contents or a summary of the training sessions, names and qualifications of persons conducting the training, and names and job titles of all persons attending the training sessions: 1 year.
  • Violent incident logs: 5 years.
  • Records of workplace violence incident investigations: 5 years.
  • Records must be available not only to Cal/OSHA but also to employees or their representatives upon request and free of charge, within 15 days of their request.


California’s new Workplace Violence Prevention Program is a landmark initiative aimed at enhancing worker safety and reducing the risk of violence in the workplace. As the July 1, 2024, implementation date approaches, employers must prepare to comply with the new regulations by developing comprehensive and effective Workplace Prevention Plans. This proactive approach not only protects employees but also fosters a culture of safety and respect in California’s workplaces, setting a precedent for other states to follow.