Most of us spend almost 1/3 of our lives at work each week, many people work even longer hours. When you consider running errands, social activities and running around with the kids, we may very well spend more waking hours at work than home each week. Much like home, we develop a sense of security about our workplace. Just as we think about security in our homes: locking the door, neighborhood watch programs and alarms, so should we consider security in our workplace.
In 2008, 921 violent crimes occurred in the workplace in Vermont, according to the Vermont Crime Information Center (VCIC). These crimes included assaults, robberies, kidnappings and weapons offenses, among others. Vermont has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the country, and this rate of 1.48 violent crimes per 1,000 people seems like comforting odds. Unless you are one of the 900 people for whom the odds catch up.
In 2008 there were 10 accidental workplace deaths, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Vermont full-time workers logged almost 300,000 hours worked with only 5.4 work related injuries or illnesses per 100 workers. Even with these low numbers, many training hours were spent learning important skills such as CPR, lockout procedures, and proper lifting techniques. But how much time is devoted to workplace violence safety?
There are numerous things you can do in your workplace to increase your safety and reduce your risk of being a victim of violence. Here are four things to keep in mind to keep yourself safe at work.
1- Control access into your business. Most businesses unlock their doors in the morning and don’t lock them until night, but while doing this you can control who enters and leaves. Only leave one door open. Lock and alarm all other doors, and have video cameras that record motion set up to record anyone who tries to access them.
2- Greet everyone quickly. Have someone at the entrance to greet people as they enter your business. A person that is able to enter your business and wander around unchallenged may able to find a victim in a position where help is inaccessible. Greeting a person as soon as they enter, and arranging for an escort through the building, will deter opportunistic crimes and let your visitor know he or she is being watched.
3- Be able to summon help quickly. A quiet, rapid method for getting help such as a silent alarm button is crucial for a greeter. A code word over a PA system or two-way radios is good, but it should be something that is simple and trained on regularly so employees are familiar with what to do. Most alarm systems can be set up to contact the police with just a button push to speed up the response for help.
4- Trust your instincts. If something appears out of place, it probably is. Be curious about things that don’t seem right. Tell someone else about what is bothering you, and then figure out the best way to check it out. Don’t just look into something without telling someone else where you are.
Always be alert to your surroundings. Police officers train to practice “What-if” scenarios in their head all the time, constantly rehearsing what they would do based on the conditions and changes in the environment around them. Everyone should practice this whether at home, in the workplace, or traveling between. You will be able to react faster, as a person or as an organization, if you have spent time preplanning what to do in an emergency.