Employee safety and workplace violence prevention plans
SB 553 requires these plans to be in place by July 1, 2024
Although schools are actually very safe, school safety is an ongoing concern for students, parents and district employees. According to the AASA, The School Superintendents Association, schools remain the safest place for children, and schools are safer now than they were 20 years ago. Protecting against rare instances of school violence requires a comprehensive and holistic approach, with boards of education playing a critical role in providing safe environments for students and staff.

To address campus risks, prepare for emergencies and create a safe, secure learning environment for students and staff, districts are required to develop and maintain a comprehensive school safety plan.

Districts are also required to establish, implement and maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program for staff. Traditionally, workplace safety and health hazards have been viewed as arising from unsafe work practices, hazardous industrial conditions or exposures to harmful chemicals. However, more recently, employees throughout the state have become victims of violent acts in the workplace.

Recent legislation has impacted both comprehensive safety plans and employee safety. This article is the first in a two-part series related to school safety and will focus on employee safety, with the focus of next month’s article on student safety and comprehensive safety plans.

Developing a workplace violence prevention plan

Senate Bill 553 requires employers to create, adopt and implement a workplace violence prevention plan (WVPP) by July 1, 2024. The WVPP may be incorporated as a stand-alone section in the district’s written injury and illness prevention program or maintained as a separate document.

Districts are required to establish an effective procedure for active involvement by staff in developing and implementing the WVPP, including their participation in identifying, evaluating and correcting workplace violence hazards.

Workplace violence is defined as any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment. For local educational agencies, this may mean violence committed by staff, students, parents or anyone on campus. However, workplace violence does not include lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others.

Protecting against the rare instances of school violence requires a comprehensive and holistic approach, with boards of education playing a critical role in providing safe environments for students and staff.

The WVPP must include procedures for:

  • Involving employees and authorized employee representatives in the development and implementation of the WVPP
  • Coordinating implementation of the WVPP with other employers
  • Accepting and responding to reports of workplace violence, including prohibiting retaliation against reporting employees
  • Ensuring employees comply with the WVPP
  • Communicating with employees about how to report violent incidents, threats or concerns to the LEA or law enforcement, how concerns will be investigated, and how results of the investigation will be communicated, including any corrective actions to be taken
  • Responding to actual and potential workplace violence emergencies including alerting employees, evacuation plans and obtaining help from law enforcement
  • Developing and providing training
  • Identifying and evaluating workplace violence hazards
  • Posting incident response and investigation
  • Reviewing effectiveness of the WVPP

The WVPP must also identify the individuals responsible for implementing the plan be in writing and be easily accessible at all times.

Training and record keeping

School hallway with orange lockers and decorative flooring with blue and yellow tiles

SB 553 requires districts to provide effective training on the WVPP to staff when the plan is first established and annually thereafter, including an opportunity for interactive questions and answers during such training. Additional training is required when a new or previously unrecognized workplace violence hazard has been identified and when changes are made to the WVPP. LEAs should ensure that staff are adequately trained on the new WVPPs.

LEAs are required to record every workplace violence incidence in a violence incidence log and to maintain records of workplace hazard identification, evaluation and correction. These records must be maintained for at least five years.

Training records are required to be maintained for at least one year 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.

These records must be made available to the California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) and LEA employees and their representatives for examination and copying.

Separate from new requirements regarding WVPPs, SB 553 authorizes a collective bargaining representative to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) on behalf of an employee who has suffered unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence from any individual that can reasonably be construed to be carried out or to have been carried out at the workplace. At the court’s discretion, the TRO may apply to any number of other employees at the workplace as well.


SB 553’s provisions will be enforced by Cal/OSHA through civil penalties beginning July 1, 2024, even though Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board is not required to adopt workplace violence standards codifying SB 553 until Dec. 31, 2025.

Boards play a vital role as they establish policies that enhance school security and create positive school climates where all students can learn, grow, and thrive. CSBA’s sample Board Policy/Administrative Regulation 4157/ 4257/4357 – Employee Safety was recently updated as part of the March 2024 packet, making now a great time to consider your district’s procedures and review your district’s policy on employee safety.

Additionally, districts should ensure their injury and illness prevention program includes a WVPP in compliance with the requirements of SB 553 by July 1, 2024. Boards are also encouraged to review CSBA’s resources on school safety which can be accessed at csba.org/SchoolSafety.