Many workers are called to spend time alone in unfamiliar, potentially dangerous environments, from site inspections to confined spaces to home healthcare to real estate open houses. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has assembled some tips to help keep workers safe when they are alone or off-site.
Tips for Employers:
- Prepare a daily work plan so everyone knows where and when off-site employees are expected somewhere.
- Set a check-in procedure requiring off-site employees to check in periodically. Know when and who to call for help if they do not.
- Provide training on how to recognize and avoid potentially violent situations, as well as conflict resolution and mediation skills.
- Use a "buddy system" in high risk situations - make sure employees know this option is available to them and when to use it.
- Provide information on high risk geographical areas.
- Limit the time of day visits can be made to high risk areas/clients.
- Keep client records and ensure staff are aware if a client is known to be aggressive, hostile or potentially violent.
- Meet clients in a safe environment where other people are around, such as a restaurant, hotel lobby, or office/workplace.
- Always wear or carry your identification badge. It will show that you are acting in an official capacity and that you are an employee doing your job.
- Carry only what is necessary. Large or numerous bags or cases are cumbersome.
- Always take a cell phone with you and keep it in a place you can access quickly.
- Avoid having new work contacts walk you to your car.
- Be alert and make mental notes of your surroundings when you arrive at a new place.
- Maintain a “reactionary gap” between yourself and the client (e.g., out of reach of the average person's kicking distance). Increase the gap by sitting across from each other at a table, if possible.
- Bring two copies of written materials so you can sit across from the client, not beside.
- Ask a colleague or friend to come with you if something makes you feel uneasy. Tell your supervisor about any feelings of discomfort or apprehension about an up-coming meeting.
- Keep records and indicate if a client or patient is known to be aggressive, hostile or potentially violent. Do not leave out incidents that make you feel apprehensive.
- Do not enter any situation or location where you feel threatened or unsafe.