Most of us spend about one-third of our time on the job, not counting commuting time. This is really the bulk of our waking hours, so it's worth taking some steps to protect ourselves in the workplace. Your employer or the building that you work in may or may not provide security. Whatever the case, you need to recognize that your personal safety and security is ultimately your obligation.
Carefully review these brief guidelines, which are intended to help you take a look at your day-by-day activities. By doing this, you'll increase your awareness of protective strategies available to you while in the workplace.
Working after hours
If you are working late in the office, particularly if you are alone, be alert. Crime studies show that personal attacks are in most cases planned attacks by the perpetrator. They always look for the right opportunity and the easiest victim. So, be smart -- plan, think ahead and take action. Remove the opportunity. Here are some helpful tips.
¥ Ask about your building's after-hours access rules. Know when the building goes into "Security Mode" and know how you must access the building.
¥ Always lock your suite doors after-hours. Never unlock your suite for anyone, no matter who they say they are. If they persist, call building security or the police.
¥ If you step out of your office, no matter how brief, lock your suite door. (Don't forget the key!)
¥ Keep a spare, unmarked key to your suite in your wallet or on a wrist keeper while working after hours.
¥ Use a locked restroom whenever possible and check to see if anyone else is inside. Restrooms, like stairways, are where many attackers and criminals hide. If someone else is inside, leave and come back later.
¥ In your wallet, keep co-workers' home phone numbers. Also keep with you the back line or after-hours number of your office. You may need these should you become locked out.
¥ Close all window shades while working after hours.
¥ If the building has a security system with controlled access doors, try to work in a secured area; if necessary, carry work from an unsecured area to a secured area. If possible, do not work on the first floor where access from the outside is easier.
¥ Be conscious of at least two exit routes from your work area.
¥ If your building has security guards, let them know that you are in the building. Give your telephone number to the guard and be sure you have the guard's number. Arrange for the guard to check on you regularly.
¥ If there is no guard, let family, friends, and/or colleagues know where you are and when you will leave. Have them check on you regularly.
¥ Know the cleaning service schedule and become friendly with those who clean your area. While they do not have security responsibilities, they can be helpful if needed.
¥ Keep a set of keys within easy reach to be used as a weapon if necessary.
¥ If you are in an elevator with a stranger and you feel uncomfortable, get off as soon as possible. Do not press the emergency stop button. Rather, press all the floor buttons. At each floor, yell for help and try to escape.
¥ Never use the stairs alone after hours. A large proportion of crime occurs in stairways.
¥ If you know that you will be working late, when possible, park your car in a lot with an attendant, under a light and ideally near the attendant's booth. Do this even if it means moving to this type of area at the end of normal business hours and before you begin working late.
¥ Never leave a building alone. Ask for an escort by a co-worker or on-duty security officer.
¥ If you cannot be accompanied before entering the parking lot, have your keys in your hand.
¥ Purses with straps should be up on your shoulder. Ideally, briefcases and other luggage should be on a cart to keep your hands as free as possible. As you approach your car, check to see if anyone is underneath it. Before entering, check to see if anyone is in the back seat. After you enter the car, immediately lock all the doors.
If you follow these simple guidelines, you will diminish your chances of becoming a victim. Always keep your personal safety awareness high and be smart and safe.
Langley is senior vice president of sales and marketing for PacWest Security Services.