We all like to think that we’re safe at work. After all, we’re all coming to work with the shared goal of getting the job done and getting back home safely to our families. Sadly, research from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests that approximately 2 million workers report experiencing violence in their professional lives each year and 18,000 of these resulted in injuries that required one or more days off work and 700 resulted in death.
While no plan is ever fail-safe, the good news is that there are easy, low-cost steps that you can take now to improve safety and security at your place of work. Below, we outline some key considerations for creating a safer work environment for you and your employees:
Conduct an analysis:
The best place to start is by simply having a walk-through of your physical space. Is your parking lot well lit? Do your security cameras and alarm system function well? Can employees safely navigate to their cars after hours? Do doors easily and safely lock? Next, start thinking about what’s going on inside your office. Have you or any of your employees received threats – either from coworkers, customers, or other folks in their circle? Is anyone experiencing personal strife that may result in threats to workplace safety?
Plan to fix your trouble spots:
Based on the outcome of your analysis, you’ll need to start thinking about how you can solve them. Here at Abel, for example, our parking lot is wooded around the perimeter and while we have ample lighting, it still feels dark. Our solution? Each employee carries a branded flashlight as they navigate to their car, and then flashes the light at the security camera, to signal that they are safe in the car. It’s a low-cost solution that helps promote safety.
Have a plan and put it into practice:
While it’s tough to consider a big crisis or safety event in the office, being prepared will always serve you well. You and your HR execs should work together to develop a plan for such dangerous situations such as fires, active shooters, or even a natural disaster. For a fire, for example, create a plan for how people should exit the building, where they should congregate, and how you will ensure everyone is safely out of the building. In the event or a tornado, earthquake or other natural disaster, figure out the best space in the office to shelter in place and what other provisions you might need to make to ensure the continued safety of your employees in the days ahead. For an active shooter, you’ll also need to figure out safe exits from the building, shelter in place spots, and other steps you can take to contain the shooter and minimize their impact to your company. Now, having a plan in place is all well and good, but the plan has to be accessible (think posting exit routes in common areas, hallways and stairwells), and they have to be practiced regularly in order to be most effective.
Use your Spidey senses:
When we reflect on an incident, often we’ll curse ourselves for ignoring “that feeling.” You know, that pit in your stomach that tells us that something is wrong but that we usually try to suppress and ignore. After all, it would be super embarrassing to raise a false alarm or simply make a fuss over something simple and innocent. However, being aware of your surroundings and knowing when something is “off” is crucial to thwarting potential security issues. Therefore, you should create a culture in your office where employees are encouraged to speak up if something feels wrong and that their feedback will be taken seriously and that you will take steps to address their concern.
A good defense, and a great offense:
While we are all about being prepared and heading off a crisis, there’s also much to be said for being able to respond appropriately should an emergency occur. We are strong believers in offering first aid and CPR training to all employees – there are lots of great programs that will send a trainer straight to your office to provide a quick course at a very reasonable rate and the pay off – in the form of saving lives – is truly invaluable.
Draft in the pros:
If this all feels a bit overwhelming and you aren’t even sure where to start, you need look no further than your local law enforcement officials. Currently, state, local and federal law officials are well versed in workplace security and safety and will be happy to offer suggestions or recommend a private firm that can help you really elevate your employee safety and security.