Is your workplace safe?

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when people gave little thought to workplace security and safety. We generally think about bad things happening somewhere else to someone else — not to us here in Missouri.

However, times are different, and workplace violence can and does happen here. One never knows what could happen, and such a sense of uncertainty can affect productivity.

A sound safety and security program involves a commitment by management and an investment on the part of employees. Management provides the organizational resources and motivation necessary to deal effectively with safety and security hazards. Employees should be involved, both individually and collectively, by participating in worksite assessment; assisting in developing clear, effective procedures; and identifying existing and potential hazards. Employees are familiar with the plant’s physical layout, and they know the potential danger points. Employees’ knowledge and experience should be incorporated into any plan to address safety and security issues.

An effective program should include an assessment of the workplace; a proposal for correcting deficiencies; education and training; record keeping and evaluation.

As you think about the major elements of your safety program, consider some of the things many businesses are now doing. For example, you should have all visitors sign in and out, indicating when they arrive and depart and whom they are seeing. Try to maintain one entrance for everyone (employees and visitors), and keep all other entrances locked from the outside. (All exits must open from the inside for emergency purposes.) You may want to have employees wear picture I.D. tags. This will allow them to quickly identify anyone not authorized to be in the building.

Some facilities employ a uniformed security guard stationed at the entrance to screen visitors. The presence of a guard alone can act as a deterrent. This guard should have access to a concealed panic button that alerts local law enforcement. You could install a stationary metal detector to help detect metal items carried into the facility, too. These work best when used in conjunction with a hand-held metal detector. If, however, a stationary metal detector is not feasible because of cost, a handheld detector can be used alone.

Other safety mechanisms could include having the entry door equipped with an electric lock that is de-energized when a card or combination lock keypad is used to open the door. The door can be opened from the inside at all times. You can install door and window detectors to sound an alarm if opened, including glass breakage detectors.

Closed circuit TV can be used to monitor areas inside and outside the building. You should also be sure the parking area is well-lighted and that no brush, trees or other items could conceal an intruder.

Any situation involving bombs or a bomb threat should be handled quickly and professionally. The decisions made at a time like this affect many lives and must be dealt with in a serious manner. If this ever happens to you, consider following these suggestions:

Always assume the bomb threat is legitimate. If a call, try to keep the caller on the line and get as much information as possible. Ask questions. When will the bomb explode? How many bombs are there? Where are the bombs located? What kind of bomb is it? What does it look like? What will set it off? How can it be defused? Why did you place the bomb? Let the caller hang up first, then contact the person in charge of the facility and the proper authorities and evacuate the building. You should have a written evacuation plan, and employees should be trained to follow it in a calm, orderly manner.

Training for these eventualities is very important and the most effective means to increase personal security. It is essential that management support employee training and make it mandatory. Training builds confidence, lessens the feeling of being threatened and helps employees feel more at ease.

Record keeping is an essential element of any workplace safety and security program. It provides the information necessary to conduct risk analyses, identify training needs and conduct program evaluations. You should also develop procedures and mechanisms to evaluate your safety and security programs and monitor progress and accomplishments. Review these programs on a regular basis.

Today’s working world is sometimes confusing, hostile and stressful. In this job climate, employees feel they must prove themselves and devote more and more time to their careers. Business owners struggle to keep companies productive and successful. Occasionally we just need to be reminded that a safe, secure work environment enables both to accomplish their goals.

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