What California's New Workplace Violence Prevention Law Means for Employers

By July 1, 2024, virtually all California employers must comply with the state’s new workplace violence prevention law, Senate Bill 553 (SB 553). This makes California the first state nationwide to enact comprehensive workplace violence prevention requirements that apply across all industries.

Understanding Senate Bill 553

Signed into law on September 30, 2023, SB 553 mandates that employers develop and implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP). This plan must address specific hazards at each worksite, train all employees on its components, log violent incidents, and maintain records demonstrating compliance with these and other statutory requirements.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has confirmed that there will be no grace period, and enforcement will begin immediately. Employers must act swiftly to meet the deadline and avoid penalties for non-compliance.

The rationale behind SB 553

The passage of SB 553 reflects California’s commitment to leading the nation in occupational safety and health standards. The law was inspired by tragic events, notably a mass shooting at a workplace in San Jose, which resulted in 10 deaths. State Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) introduced SB 553 in response to this tragedy, aiming to prevent such incidents.

Introduced on February 15, 2023, the bill underwent numerous amendments, transforming it from a directive for DOSH to establish standards into a comprehensive law requiring employers to implement workplace violence prevention measures as part of their injury and illness prevention plans.

Nationwide impact and future trends

Workplace violence is a widespread issue, not limited to California. A 2022 joint study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health revealed that over one million non-fatal workplace violence incidents occur annually in the U.S., along with hundreds of fatal incidents.

California’s new law is likely to serve as a model for other states. New York and Minnesota are already considering similar legislation, indicating a trend toward broader adoption of workplace violence prevention measures nationwide.

Challenges and recommendations for employers

The obligations imposed by SB 553 are extensive. Employers must create a WVPP tailored to their work environments, train employees, and maintain detailed records. Given the complexity, here are some recommended steps for compliance:

  1. Start with a template. Use a trusted template to develop your WVPP. DOSH provides a model plan, but employers need to customize it to address specific hazards and operations.
  2. Consult professionals. Seek advice from legal counsel or occupational safety and health experts. Professional guidance can help ensure that your WVPP meets all legal requirements and is effectively implemented.
  3. Use available resources. While DOSH is not required to issue detailed regulations until December 31, 2026, employers should review available guidance and keep abreast of updates to ensure compliance.
  4. Engage employees. Involve employees in developing and implementing the WVPP. This includes collaborating with employee representatives, especially in unionized workplaces, to identify hazards and develop prevention strategies.

Immediate actions for employers

Employers, particularly those with large or multiple worksites, must allocate substantial time and resources to develop a compliant WVPP and train their workforce. Key immediate actions include:

  • Assessing workplace-specific hazards.
  • Designing and implementing prevention strategies.
  • Ensuring active employee participation in the WVPP.

The time to act is now for those who have not yet started. Demonstrating a reasonable faith effort to comply with SB 553 will be crucial as DOSH begins enforcement.


California's new workplace violence prevention law marks a significant step forward in protecting workers. The requirements are rigorous, reflecting a strong commitment to reducing workplace violence. Employers who proactively engage with these new regulations will ensure compliance and contribute to safer work environments.

By leading the way, California sets a precedent that other states may follow, fostering a nationwide movement toward comprehensive workplace violence prevention.

For expert assistance in developing and implementing your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan, check out our consultation services, which provide comprehensive support to help you navigate and comply with California's new regulations.

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