California Senate Bill SB 553 mandates that workplaces develop comprehensive violence prevention plans to protect employees. The bill requires employers to implement measures like risk assessment, employee training, and incident reporting protocols to address (and mitigate) potential threats of violence.

The importance of having a workplace violence prevention plan lies in its ability to create a safer work environment, reduce the risk of injury or harm to employees, and ensure a proactive approach to addressing violence — ultimately fostering a culture of safety and respect in the workplace.

Here are 15 must-have components for your company’s workplace violence prevention plan.

1. Introduction

As you might guess, this section is for briefly introducing your plan. Here’s some sample copy — feel free to adjust.

At [COMPANY NAME], we are committed to fostering a safe and secure work environment. The safety and well-being of our employees is a top priority. The following Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (“Plan”) is designed to proactively address and mitigate potential threats to the safety and security of our workplace.

2. Purpose

Like the Introduction, this part is fairly standard. Again, below is some sample copy that you can use:

The purpose of this Plan is to:

  • Identify the names and job titles of the persons responsible for the implementation and maintenance of this plan;
  • Highlight how employees can report violent incidents, threats, or other workplace violence concerns, and how [COMPANY NAME] accepts and responds to such reports
  • Reinforce [COMPANY NAME]’s prohibition against unlawful retaliation for reporting, in good faith, violent incidents, threats, or other workplace violence concerns, and participating in any related investigations of such reports
  • Outline [COMPANY NAME] procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies 
  • Detail training requirements about this Plan, including the frequency of training
  • Outline procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards
  • Communicate post-incident response and investigation processes

3. Roles & Responsibilities

In this section, you’ll list the names or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan. If there are multiple persons responsible for the plan, their roles should be clearly described.

You’ll also list the methods you’ll use to coordinate implementation of the plan with others to ensure everyone understands their respective roles, as provided in the plan, and that the supervisory and nonsupervisory employees comply with the plan in a manner consistent with paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3203 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.

4. Definition of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence refers to any “act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment.” It includes, regardless of whether an employee sustains an injury, the threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in or is likely to result in injury, trauma, or stress, as well as incidents involving a threat or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon. 

A “threat of violence” means any verbal or written statement, including, but not limited to, texts, electronic messages, social media messages, or other online posts, or any behavior or physical conduct that conveys an intent, or that is reasonably perceived to convey an intent to cause physical harm or to place someone in fear of physical harm, and that serves no legitimate purpose. 

There are four common 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

Workplace violence does not include lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others.

5. Reporting Workplace Violence and Protection Against Retaliation

This section is to clearly state your company’s stance against retaliation, and also guide employees towards your reporting tool/procedures. If you have Ethena’s Hotline and Case Management tool, this directs them there. If you don’t have that tool, add information on how your employees can report incidents.

6. Communication Regarding Workplace Violence

Here, you’ll want to document effective procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters, including but not limited to, both of the following:

(i) How an employee can report a violent incident, threat, or other workplace violence concern to the employer or law enforcement without fear of reprisal;

(ii) How employee concerns will be investigated as part of the employer’s responsibility in complying with subparagraph (I), and how employees will be informed of the results of the investigation and any corrective actions to be taken as part of the employer’s responsibility in complying with paragraph (J).

7. Responding to Workplace Violence

In this section, you should detail effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies, including but not limited to, all of the following:

(i) Effective means to alert employees of the presence, location, and nature of workplace violence emergencies

(ii) Evacuation or sheltering plans that are appropriate and feasible for the worksite.

(iii) How to obtain help from staff assigned to respond to workplace violence prevention emergencies (if any), security personnel (if any), and law enforcement.

8. Training

This section should detail the procedures you’ll use to develop and provide training on workplace violence prevention.

9. Identification of Workplace Hazards

In this section, state the procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, including but not limited to, scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices and employee reports and concerns. 

10. Correcting Workplace Violence Hazards

Here, you’ll detail the procedures to correct workplace violence hazards that have been identified—consistent with subdivision (a) of Section 3203 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.

11. Post-Incident Response and Evaluation

In this section, list your procedures for post-incident response and investigation.

12. Recordkeeping

These records should not contain “medical information” as defined in subdivision (j) of Section 56.05 of the Civil Code. All records should be made available to employees and their representatives upon request and without cost, for examination and copying, within 15 calendar days of the request.

13. Updates

Detail the procedures you’ll put in place to review the effectiveness of the plan and revise it as needed.

That can include procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in reviewing and updating it. Your plan should be reviewed at least annually, when a deficiency is observed or becomes apparent, and after a workplace violence incident.

14. Related Legal Policies

Link to your related policies here. Since California requires employers to also have an Injury and Illness Prevention Plan, you should link yours here. You can also link other related plans, policies, or tools.

15. Document History

Finally, as with any legal document or policy, here is where you’ll specify previous versions of the policy and the dates it was updated.

Download our free Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) template

Workplace violence can have severe consequences, including physical harm, emotional trauma, and financial losses. By implementing a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, you can create a safe work environment and reduce the risk of violent incidents. This not only protects employees, but also enhances productivity and morale, since workers feel more secure and valued in a safe workplace.

Ready to get started? Download our Workplace Violence Prevention Plan Template here!

The final word

The California workplace violence prevention law will also require businesses to meet a recurring annual training requirement that is specific to each company’s risks and plans. At Ethena, we want to help you take the guesswork out of compliance training. That’s why we created our Workplace Violence Prevention course (which is less than 20 minutes long!) and designed to meet the requirements of SB 553.