The terrible tragedy at a Colorado movie theatre recently made me think about how vulnerable we all are as we go along our daily routine; going to work, going for a walk or jog, or taking in a late night movie. Other than locking yourself up in a bunker in the desert somewhere, it’s almost impossible to be 100 percent safe anywhere. You can be sitting in your house in a thunderstorm and be hit by lightning. A friend of mine recently broke her foot in two places and suffered a pretty nasty head injury with two black eyes just by tripping on the stairs and falling against a door jamb.
There are disturbed people plotting revenge against the world and accidents do happen. You can still take precautions and make good choices to keep yourself safe. The same goes for choosing a job. You don’t have to be in a high-risk profession to be vulnerable. According to a U.S. Department of Labor report on workplace violence, two million people each year report they were victims of some sort of workplace incident. This can take many forms, such as physical violence, bullying, verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, fear or threats. Some jobs are risky because of location or the type of work. Here are some things to consider for staying safe on the job.
1. Location. Every city or area has high-crime areas or those with greater risk. If you’re new to an area, you can access the city or county website and look for crime statistics. Many of these websites give statistics or numbers by area or zip code, so it should be easy to see if the workplace is in one of these areas. If there are a lot of car break-ins or thefts in the area, you may want to reconsider the job.
2. Work schedule. The report cited working alone or late at night as risk factors. One retail store provides a security guard escort for employees working the late shift to be sure they get to their cars safely. Are the parking lots well lit? Are you the only one leaving at that time of night, or are there a lot of employees leaving at the same time? Is there late night security in a secured area?
3. Working with the public. Customer service workers interact with people, exchange money or may work where alcohol is sold. Working in a convenience store, bank, in a bar or club puts lots of cash, alcohol and opportunity together for possible violence. Any service business has its own risk from disgruntled customers. With the poor economy and unemployment, people can get very angry when it comes to getting their money’s worth.
4. Strong workplace violence policy. What is the company’s attitude about workplace violence? What kind of safety precautions do they have in place? Ask to see the employee handbook and read the policy. If they say they don’t have or need one, ask why not? The DOL suggests a strong anti-workplace violence policy that is enforced is the best deterrent to workplace violence. Be sure you’re protected.
5. The work environment. Be observant. I always ask to see the area where I’ll be working when I interview. It gives me a chance to take a look at the work areas and observe the employees. Is it an open environment or are there a lot of doors to go through, or isolated areas? Are there a lot of security cameras around? Do you have to go through a lot of locked doors, even inside the building? How do employees interact with each other? In my experience, gut feelings never lie. If something just seems off about the place, it probably is. Do a little more research before you say yes. Check your social networks to see if you have a contact at the company or someone that used to work there to check out your impressions.
6. Do a Google search. On the company, the management team and new boss. You may find out the company is being sued for discrimination or there have been safety issues in the past. Knowledge is a good thing. There are many sites that offer company reviews or posts from former customers or employees.
The time it takes to do a little research can help avoid unpleasant or risky work situations. Make safety a part of your job search process.