Business Team Discussing Workplace Violence Prevention

CA SB 553: Ensure Your Plan is Actionable


In our California Workplace Violence Program Mandate post, we delved into the critical elements of California's new workplace violence (WPV) prevention law, set to take effect on July 1, 2024. We highlighted the comprehensive measures mandated by this law, including:

  • Protocols for reporting WPV incidents
  • Retaliation prohibition
  • Emergency alert processes
  • Advancements in WPV protection orders
  • Hazard evaluation procedures
  • Post-incident response protocols
  • Extensive training requirements

In this post, we will explain why the effectiveness of California's groundbreaking legislation hinges not just on its existence on paper, but on its dynamic application in the real world. 

Specifically, we'll share:

  • The importance of developing a WPV prevention plan that is actionable and integrated into the daily operations of the business.
  • Strategies for ensuring your plan is an active and evolving part of organizational life that continually enhances employee safety and well-being.

Do You Have a Program or a Plan on the Shelf?

Too often, workplace violence prevention and response plans exist as neatly organized yet underutilized documents, gathering dust on a shelf and only revisited sporadically. This approach begs the question: are we genuinely living these plans, or are they mere formalities?

A Stark Reminder: The Oxford, Michigan School Shooting

The aftermath of the tragic Oxford school shooting on November 30, 2021, serves as a poignant example. The resignation of two Oxford school board members highlighted a disturbing gap. They cited a lack of transparency and action post-incident. A departing member lamented,"We had all the policies and guidelines, but did we truly follow them? Did we execute? Post-shooting, we discovered Secret Service DHS protocols, but were they actively used in our district?" This incident underscores the chasm between having a plan and actually bringing it to life in day-to-day operations.

"We had all the policies and guidelines, but did we truly follow them?"


Personal Case Study: A Lesson in Execution

Our firm’s recent experience with an organization is telling. They had a comprehensive workplace violence prevention and threat assessment policy, including a well-outlined Threat Management Team (TMT), in line with the American National Standard. The problem was that nobody, other than the authors of the plan, was trained on the plan’s details or even knew of the plan’s existence! The policy identified specific individuals within the organization as being members of the TMT. However, when we contacted these individuals, not only were they unaware that the organization had a TMT, but they were completely unaware that they were supposed to be members of it!

This organization had all the elements of a good Workplace Violence Prevention and Response program yet failed to bring it to life through staff training and actual execution. This resulted in the organization having a significant exposure to risk.

Empowering Implementation...Key Elements of an Effective WPV Prevention and Response Program

For a workplace violence prevention program to be effective, it needs to be more than just a written document. It requires:

• Dynamic and Interactive Training

    • Regular, updated training that mirrors current policy.
    • Baseline training on fundamentals for all employees of an organization
    • A violent incident log for every workplace violence incident
    • Physical walk-through of facility-specific evacuations/shelter-in-place protocols

• Training and Empowerment of Front-line Supervisors and Managers

    • Equipping them with the knowledge and tools to implement workplace violence prevention strategies at their worksites.
    • Curriculum supplemented by individual work unit discussions led by a supervisor.

• Open Communication and Non-retaliation Policy

    • A clear protocol for reporting threats and concerning behaviors.
    • Ensuring employees can report workplace violence incidents/concerns without fear of backlash.

• Proactive Monitoring in a Multidisciplinary Approach

    • Establishment of a multidisciplinary Threat Management Team (TMT).
    • Tracking and analyzing threatening communications.
    • Regularly scheduled meetings of the TMT.
    • Protocol for follow-up and aftercare for employees reporting and/or experiencing workplace violence.

The true measure of success for Workplace Violence Prevention and Response plans lies in their active implementation and integration into daily workplace practices. These plans should not be static documents, but dynamic frameworks that empower every level of an organization to proactively address workplace violence.

In our <Title> post, we pivot to a critical consideration in this journey: 'So You’ve Hired a Contractor… What Could Go Wrong?' This discussion delves into the challenges and nuances of selecting the right external expertise to develop, implement, and maintain your workplace violence program. In the wake of SB 553's mandates, a surge of 'experts' may offer their services, but it’s imperative to distinguish between genuine proficiency and opportunistic offerings. We explore key factors to consider when choosing a contractor, ensuring that your organization's approach to workplace violence prevention and response is not only compliant but also truly effective and tailored to your unique environment.

Learn more about Atana's Getting Real About Workplace Violence training program is proven eLearning that enables organizations to teach and track crucial workplace violence prevention and response behaviors. An ideal solution for the SB553 initial training requirement, the California course comes in Employee and Manager versions and is easily scalable. A dashboard allows organizational leaders to gauge the training's impact on key attitudes and behaviors. 


About the Authors


Certified Threat Manager & Workplace Violence Expert. Former FBI Supervisory Special Agent

  • Learn more about Don

    For 23 years, Don worked for the FBI – specializing in counterterrorism, organized crime, and narcotics investigations. After retiring, Don began a second career in behavioral health where he established one of the first Behavioral Health Crisis Centers and served as the Manager of Behavioral Health Crisis Intervention Services at a 296-bed community hospital. He is an experienced Crisis/Hostage Negotiator, a Certified Threat Manager®, and a certified law enforcement instructor. Don has trained foreign and domestic governmental agencies, law enforcement/security entities, educational institutions, healthcare organizations, social service agencies and community non-profit organizations.


Workplace Violence Prevention & Response Training Expert (Military and Private Sector)

  • Learn more about James

    James has more than 30 years' experience in the security industry. With a unique background in specialized captivity survival, James has trained thousands of US military personnel from one of the most elite units in the US Department of Defense. He’s worked in the corporate arena for nearly 20 years, focusing on the development and implementation of specialized training programs and helping more than 50 percent of the Fortune 100 prepare for and respond to emerging challenges related to workplace violence, intimate partner violence, and extreme violence such as active shooter.


This summary of recent legislation is provided from our perspective as practitioners of workplace violence prevention, intervention, response, and associated behavioral threat assessment.  Employers should consult with their own legal counsel regarding the legal implications of this new legislation.

Recommended Training - Getting Real About Workplace Violence

Known for making people mindful, not fearful, Getting Real About Workplace Violence is your best choice for Workplace Violence Prevention training. The California course and accompanying employer resources enable you to fully comply with SB 553.