Working Late- Safety After Hours
By Matt Singleton
November 9, 2017
Working late has become commonplace in American business. Recent studies suggest that almost two-thirds of US businesses report employees working more hours than three years ago. I can attest to this. My wife, who works in admin for a large University, often stays late at the office. She actually finds it to be a time when she can focus on her work, without the constant distraction of team members coming to her with various requests.
But working late also comes with inherent risks. In fact, working late is considered one of ten most important risk factors when considering violence in the workplace. Violence is the third leading cause of death for healthcare workers, and employees in professional and business services like education, law and media. In 2014, 409 persons age 16 or older were victims of homicide in the workplace, which accounted for about 16% of all workplace deaths that year.
So, you are one of those folks who is a driven go-getter. You often stay late, to finish a critical task instead of leaving it for the morning. Your boss probably loves you. But what can you do to mitigate the risk you take by staying late in your place of work? Ideally, some training in how to recognize the signs of potential violence, and training in conflict resolution and critical incident response. Trident Shield’s online workplace violence and active threat course is a good example. Of course, we would love you to get your training with us, but the important thing is you get some training, period. Just make sure you thoroughly vet any training or instructors you use. There are plenty of bad actors out there!
In the meantime, here are some things you can do to minimize your risk of violence when working after hours.
Basics to Avoid After Hours Violence
- Lock all doors, including exterior doors and your office door if possible.
- Turn on as many lights as you can. Light increases situational awareness and can be a deterrent against crime.
- Have a defensive/Improvised weapon (pen, pepper spray, knife etc.) on your person at all times.
- Maintain auditory alertness- keep those earbuds out! If you absolutely must have music or news to listen to, keep it at a low volume on external speakers, so you can still hear sounds and ambient noise from your surroundings.
If you are concerned about a co-worker:
- Pre-dial 911 on your phone to quickly reach police if necessary.
- Stay nearest to the doorway if in same room.
- Try to stay in rooms that are being monitored with security cameras.
- Do not turn your back to them.
Establish a “buddy check-in system”:
- Arrange to check-in at specific time intervals with your spouse, a friend, or co-worker. You can check in by text, phone, or however you like. Don’t forget! Set an alarm if you have to.
- Share your location with your check-buddy.
- Have a pre- arranged code word with your check-buddy that means you are in trouble and to send help.
- There’s an app for that! There are constantly improving apps being released every day that have panic buttons on your phone, buddy alerts, police alerts etc.
When your work is done and you are ready to leave:
- Let your check-buddy know that you are leaving the building and will communicate when safely in your car or on public transportation.
- Maintain situational awareness! Stay off the phone while walking to your car. You can text your buddy, or make that call once you are safely in your locked car, and ready to move.
- Have your phone pre-dialed to 911, and either in your hand, or easily accessible.
- Have your car-keys ready in your hand.
- Carry a bright flashlight (1000 lumens recommended) to illuminate a dark parking lot, and to check around and inside of vehicles.
- If possible, have a secondary weapon in hand. This can be your flashlight, striking weapon, or pepper spray.
- Have security, or a trusted friend or co-worker walk you to your vehicle.
It may seem overwhelming to think about these things, but once put into practice, most of them are very easy and become second nature. If you follow these simple rules and procedures, you will greatly increase your chances of avoiding, or surviving a violent encounter at work.