Every business has a duty to provide a safe work environment that protects employees, business operations, company property, and the security of customer and employee information. Companies should take the following steps to make their offices or workplaces more secure.
- Restrict access when it’s appropriate so workers can access the areas and tools they need to perform their jobs, with the risk of them visiting parts of your business where their presence isn’t required. For instance, production employees may have no work reason to visit your computer rooms and your bookkeeper probably doesn’t need to be near heavy equipment or materials.
- It’s also important to consider restricting access where contractors and visitors are allowed. A good policy to follow is the "minimum access necessary" policy, and to limit the time period - if contractors should only be on-site from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., program their keys to deny access outside those time periods.
- Install video cameras. Cameras placed at entry areas - especially areas where visitors will enter the premises - not only record the comings and goings of employees and others, they also can deter people from attempting to gain unauthorized access. If you keep exterior doors locked, video cameras can serve as a way to identify people wishing to enter the building; after verification, the door can be unlocked remotely.
- Number and assign all keys. Entry door keys, file keys and desk keys should be numbered and assigned to specific employees. Make as few "master" keys as possible, and ensure that only top management has access to master keys. If you provide keys to temporary employees, contractors, or other individuals, make sure those keys are returned either at the end of each day (if appropriate) or at the end of the assignment.
- Use electronic "keys." Better yet, use electronic keys for entry and interior doors. Electronic keys can be programmed for a specific time-period, to only open certain doors, etc. Then, if a key is not returned, your system can be easily reprogrammed to deny access to that key. A side benefit of an electronic key is that, depending on the system, use of that key can be tracked.
- Provide badges for all visitors. Requiring badges allows employees to determine quickly if an unknown person has been granted access to the premises. Plus, a visitor badge makes it easy to notice guests in your place of business - and for employees to greet those guests. By the same token, never leave reception areas unattended.
- Create a "last person out" procedure where the last person to leave at the end of the workday checks all room, doors and windows, and performs any other tasks (like turning off lights, turning on alarms, etc). Make sure every employee knows what should be done - and that they follow those procedures.
- Encourage employees to keep valuables at home or in their cars. Ask them to keep any other valuables out of sight and preferably locked in desks or cabinets.
- Ensure parking lots are well-lit and free of hiding places.
- Create and follow an evacuation plan. Even if you have a small office, make sure every employee knows when and how to exit the building during an emergency, and where to gather outside. For example, if you have a fire, the first question firefighters will ask is whether any employees remain inside; by gathering at a specific location, you will immediately know if all your employees are present and accounted for. If there are only two ways out of your office, an evacuation plan is simple to create; just make sure every employee knows to immediately report to a staging area so they can be accounted for. Holding a five-minute meeting to explain your plan could save a life.
- Set procedures for employees working late or on weekends. Establish a procedure letting you know when employees are working, and policies to make sure they are safe and the workplace is secure. If, for example, an employee has a medical emergency and no one else is on the premises. Knowing that employee should have "checked in" by now could make all the difference.
- Create a system to track the movement of employees who work outside the main workplace. Know where they are, where they should be, and create standard "check-in" procedures so you can be sure they are safe and accounted for.
Preventing Workplace Violence
In addition to physical security concerns, employers also have to consider the potential for workplace violence and take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk. Along with their general duty to provide a safe workplace, a number of states have mandated requirements to implement workplace violence protection programs.
Among the common steps experts recommend:
- Create zero-tolerance policies that include threats, fights and other forms of harassment.
- Educate employees about warning signs that could lead to an incident, such as changes in behavior, aggression, being disruptive, or prolonged anger or sadness.
- Encourage employees to speak up if they see potential warning signs, and stress that any comments will be kept confidential.
- Let workers know about any counseling services that may be available through your benefits provider.
- Provide appropriate physical access measures to reduce the risk of estranged partners from harassing or injuring an employee.
While companies understandably devote considerable attention to protecting their IT systems and data, it’s also important to establish appropriate policies for printed documents and the information they contain.
- Develop specific policies regarding the types of information employees are allowed to share with customers, vendors, suppliers, etc.
- Institute a clear desk policy. At the end of the workday, require employees to store all files, folders, and paperwork in locked drawers or file cabinets. Work in progress should be put away, regardless of whether it is of a sensitive or confidential nature.
- Store all sensitive documents in a locked fireproof and waterproof cabinet. Some documents can't be replaced; make sure yours are safe in the event of fire or other disaster. And make sure those documents are put away at the end of the workday.
- Never put company mail in an unsecure mailbox. Use locked or Postal Service mailboxes.
- Shred all proprietary and confidential information. Place shredders in convenient locations so they are easy to use.
Although some of the above tips may not be appropriate for your business, use them as a starting point to determine ways you can effectively provide security for your employees and your company.