Most of us spend a good portion of our lives at work, and 86% of us spend the day sitting in an office or other places of employment. The tendency is to view your workplace as almost a second home: mundane, ordinary, and safe. However, let’s not get complacent: crime can happen at work just as quickly as anywhere else. According to the US Department of Justice, American workers faced 572,000 nonfatal violent crimes in 2009; these included sexual assault, robbery, and simple/aggravated assault. That comes out to 4 crimes per 1,000 workers—a rather sobering statistic.
So what can you do to defend yourself while on the clock? Carrying a concealed weapon is obvious but some businesses don’t allow their employees to possess a firearm. So what do you do then? I have a handful of suggestions to get you started on your own workplace protection plan.
Start with research.
If your work for a business of any size, they likely have an emergency plan in place, so get familiar with it. Do you know where all the exits are? What about the fire alarms and fire extinguishers? The first aid kit? Having this information firmly in hand can save precious time in an emergency.
Take a walk.
Seriously, take a walk. Around your workplace, the building that it’s in, the surrounding area. Know the ways in, the ways out, the blind spots. Plan a safe route in and out of the building for both day and night. It won’t take long, and the potential benefits are huge.
Practice situational awareness.
I can’t say this enough. Keeping your head on a swivel and knowing what’s going on around you is the most powerful self-defense tool. There are some additional considerations for the workplace, though. You need to pay attention to who’s coming in and out. If you see someone suspicious or something that doesn’t belong, take appropriate action to address the situation.
An absurd amount of theft occurs because folks forget to lock the door. Make sure that your desk/locker/office door/etc. is secure when you leave for any length of time. This goes double when departing for the day—double check the entrances and make sure you set the alarm.
Practice information security.
While I encourage you to befriend your co-workers for both social and safety reasons, advertising details of your workplace’s schedule, contents or security plans in public is probably a bad idea and best avoided. It can make you a target for theft, or worse. Likewise, keep your information safe. Follow appropriate protocol for dealing with passwords, network/computer access, and documents and information. Not all theft is physical in this digital age.
Secure your personal effects.
Don’t leave your purse/briefcase/wallet/keys/phone lying around. Likewise, make sure your vehicle and its contents are secure. Workplace theft or car break-ins are more common than you might think, so take steps to prevent these crimes.
There’s a lot more to be said about establishing a workplace emergency plan and safety procedures, carrying self-defense tools at work, and how to reconcile your personal safety plan with the requirements of your job. We’ll be addressing those in other articles, so keep reading!