Personal Safety Tips & Advice
Personal safety is a weekly concern for a fifth of the workforce which means that up to 6.8 million people are worried about their safety either as they work or during their commute to and from their job every week.
More people are feeling unsafe on a regular basis and this isn’t down to specific workplaces or a particular type of work; it isn’t even confined to times of work with people often fearful during unsociable hours. Every sector is reporting a concern for their safety. Many public-facing industries, such as hospitality and retail, are facing increased aggression from frustrated and angry customers. But they aren’t alone in this. Logistics, production and manual trades all report high levels of feeling unsafe.
What also stands out from the report conducted by Peoplesafe in to personal safety concerns is that, hybrid workers are the category of worker feeling the most unsafe, with nearly three-quarters reporting safety concerns. The reasons for this are varied and depend on the type of role but the main themes that unite them are:
- Travelling and commuting
- Varied locations for work (e.g. healthcare and travelling sales teams)
- Not having a safe space at home (e.g. increase in domestic violence related to this shift in working habits)
Protecting your personal safety revolves around preventative thinking, taking sensible precautions and being aware of your surroundings. There are simple ways to improve your personal safety on a daily basis: most of which only require common sense or following good safety practices.
Communication is essential for personal safety. Someone should always know where you’re supposed to be and your planned movements. Setting up a ‘buddy’ system with a friend, colleague or family member will help to improve your personal safety because they can raise an alarm if you fail to check in with them. In addition, having a reliable method of communication available at all times will mean that you can get in touch with someone in the event of an emergency.
Depending on the situation, you’re likely to encounter different personal safety risks. We’ve put together a range of personal safety tips based on a number of scenarios.
Personal safety tips for everyday life
There are certain things that you can remember to do regardless of the circumstances to protect your personal safety. These are all best practice tips to follow for everyday life.
- Stay alert – constantly be aware of your surroundings to prevent being caught off guard. Awareness is your best defence.
- Trust your instincts – if something doesn’t feel right to you, trust your gut and take action by removing yourself from the situation (e.g. cross the road or don’t go in to the property). It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Don’t be afraid to say no – if a stranger is asking for help with something and you feel as if something isn’t right, politely tell them you can’t help right now and keep moving.
- Store emergency contacts on your phone – save a list of trusted contacts in case the emergency services need to reach them after an incident.
- Keep your valuables hidden – make yourself less of a target by not advertising anything valuable from desirable technology to expensive-looking jewellery. Ensure that if you’re carrying a bag that it’s closed.
- Spread out your valuables – it’s a good idea not to keep all your valuables in the same place. Use different spaces for your phone, keys and money.
- Carry cash – although majority of transactions are made via card or phone, having a small amount of cash is always sensible.
- Let someone know where you are going – when travelling alone, at least one person should be aware of where you are, where you’re going and how long you expect it to take.
- Don’t fight for your valuables – if you’re unfortunate enough to be targeted by thieves, let your valuables go. They can be replaced, you can’t.
- Scream for help – if someone attempts to grab you and they don’t have a weapon, scream at the top of your lungs for help. Read our safety advice on what to do if you’re attacked.
- Carry a personal safety alarm – either a dedicated device or app which can raise an alarm and summon an emergency response when you’re in trouble.
Personal safety while walking
It’s important to be mindful of your safety when walking, especially if you’re alone and it’s late or dark, making you more vulnerable compared to people travelling in groups.
- Try not to walk alone – wherever possible walk with a friend, colleague or someone you know.
- Choose appropriate footwear – wear sensible shoes (such as trainers or anything flat) that will allow for you to make a quick getaway.
- Be alert to your surroundings – concentrate on where you’re going and what’s happening around you. Don’t be distracted by your phone or have headphones in both ears so that you can’t hear potential danger signs.
- Walk with confidence and purpose – keep your head up and walk with a steady pace. Travel as if you know where you’re going even if you don’t. Also, don’t be afraid to make eye contact with people you pass.
- Stick to public areas – avoid cutting through parks, fields, alleyways, woods or other shortcuts. Shaving off time from your journey isn’t worth the risk.
- Walk in the direction of oncoming traffic – you’ll be able to see any accidents happening up ahead and it will prevent vehicles from pulling up behind you.
- Don’t go home if you think you’re being followed – instead, go somewhere public where you can alert security or to a friend or family members’ house.
Personal safety while driving
Even when you’ve got the protection of a vehicle, there are still things that you can do to protect your personal safety:
- Always have enough fuel – try to keep at least a quarter of a tank (or charge if you have an electric car).
- Store a charging cable or powerbank – if your phone or any other device needs charging while you’re out, you can use your vehicle to give it some extra battery life. Remember to charge your powerbank regularly so that you don’t lose your back up power source.
- Park sensibly – try to find well-lit areas and somewhere you won’t get blocked in. If possible, park where you can still see your vehicle.
- Reverse into bays – you’re then facing the right way if you need to leave quickly.
- Lock the doors – check that the doors are locked before leaving the vehicle.
- Have your car keys ready – before you get to your vehicle, have your keys in your hand so you don’t have to linger outside.
- Check the back seat – before getting in and driving off, check to make sure no one is stowed away in the back.
- Drive somewhere public if you think you’re being followed – preferably somewhere with security such as a police station or even a supermarket.
- If your car breaks down remain in your vehicle – if the conditions are safe keep the doors locked and your hazard warning lights on until help arrives. If you have a mobile phone, ring a friend or family member to tell them what has happened and where you are.
Personal safety while travelling
There are a number of personal safety concerns to be aware of when you’re making a journey by using public transport or soliciting a taxi.
- Plan your route – know where you’re going, how to get there and which stop(s) you need.
- Check the last departure time – plan how you’re getting home and look ahead for the last train, tube or bus to your destination.
- Wait in a well-lit area – try and stand near other people and not look isolated.
- Have your ticket, pass or payment method ready – this helps to keep your purse or wallet out of sight while you’re waiting to board.
- Sit with other people – particularly when it’s dark, try to avoid empty train carriages or the top level of double decker buses. Sitting near the bus driver or train guard should make you feel safer.
- Move if you feel uncomfortable – if you are sat somewhere and feel uneasy move away if you can. On a train you could exit at the next stop and find another carriage where you feel safer or you can alert a member of staff at the station if you feel someone needs to intervene.
- Know your exits and alarms – when on any form of public transport, check where the nearest exits and alarms are in case you need to get off for whatever reason.
- Get off if you feel unsafe – if you no longer want to be on the bus, train or tube, get off at the next stop even if it’s not your destination. You can always board the next one or contact a taxi service to take you the rest of the way.
- Arrange for someone to meet you – if you feel unsafe, try and get someone to meet you at the bus stop or train station.
- Report any incidents – the non-emergency text number for British Transport Police is 61016 or you can call the police on 101.
- Use a valid taxi service – check that the cab is licensed before getting in it. You can also ask the driver to show you their badge before starting the journey.
- Pre-book – try to avoid using private-hire cars that tout for business. Instead, use a trusted local firm and book your journey in advance.
- Share information with someone you trust – let someone know about the vehicle you’re in and the journey you’re taking.
- Check it’s your taxi – ask the driver to confirm who they are picking up and where they’re going.
- Sit behind the driver – make yourself as inaccessible as possible.
Personal safety at home
Home should be a place where everyone feels safe. Personal safety at home is something that can easily be prioritised, but often gets taken for granted.
- Look at your home through the eyes of a burglar – half of burglaries are opportunistic by taking advantage of an open window or unlocked door.
- Instal motion sensor lights – they will act as a deterrent and provide a visual alert that someone is at your home.
- Leave keys in a sensible place – don’t put them near the front door or anywhere that they can be seen from outside.
- Avoid attaching your name and address to your keys – if they were lost or stolen, it would make it easy for a burglar.
- Check the ID of house callers – if you’re unconvinced by the ID, call the organisation using the number from the internet, or paperwork if you have it, to check that the visit is genuine.
- Don’t go inside if you suspect there’s an intruder in your home – call the police who have the training to deal with the incident.
Personal safety while lone working
If you work alone, your employer has a general duty of care to provide you with a safe workplace or make provisions to keep you safe at work. Similarly, lone workers have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own personal safety.
The risks of lone working typically arise from the people you will interact with; the environment you’re working in; or the task you’re undertaking. Whenever you’re working alone, always make sure that a colleague knows where you’re going to be, who you’re going to meet and when you’re supposed to finish.
We’ve put together some personal safety tips for lone workers in different situations.
Working in other people’s homes or premises
- Familiarise yourself with the area – Google Street View can help you see the location before you arrive. Once there, check your mobile phone reception and follow any lone working procedures (e.g. check in with your buddy) set out in the company’s lone working policy.
- Have an exit strategy before you arrive – thinking about these in advance will help you to recall them in a time of stress.
- Park as nearby as possible – limit the distance you have to complete, especially in the dark.
- Only bring what is essential – don’t weigh yourself down with unnecessary items that will make you less mobile and could make you more of a target.
- Wear appropriate clothing – if you don’t have a specific uniform, wear clothes that you can easily move around in.
- Keep a clear path to the door – avoid positioning yourself so that you become trapped. If possible, be the closest person to the door.
- Conduct a dynamic risk assessment – observe your surroundings. Note the exits, how the door opens (e.g. push or pull), plus look for any dangers, such as dogs.
Working alone from a fixed base
- Instal an intercom or buzzer system – this will provide a barrier between the lone worker and the person trying to gain entry. It also gives the lone worker the opportunity to qualify the visitor.
- Keep cash out of sight – if you need to cash up at the end of the day, complete this task as far away from the front door as possible, preferably in a room that locks.
- Consider a ‘safe haven’ – having a room that locks where you can retreat to if necessary. Ensure there is a working phone in this room.
- Be aware of escape routes – in case of emergency, it’s important to know how to leave the building safely.
Working alone from home
- Avoid trailing leads and cables – keep your work area tidy and arrange equipment and furniture to minimise slip and trip risks.
- Check electrical equipment is in good condition – including plugs, leads, wires and cables.
- Regularly check-in with colleagues – implement a system where someone would raise an alarm if no one in the business had heard from you in a certain amount of time.
- Consider conducting client meetings at a neutral venue – you might be able to rent a meeting space for relatively low cost.
- Give the impression other people are home – have the radio or tv on in another room to make it seem as though you’re not alone.
- Depersonalise your meeting room – if you have to have clients in your home, conduct the meeting in a room with minimal personal information on display.
Working in rural areas
- Have a GPS device – these rely on satellites to find your position and work better in more isolated locations. Mobile phones may not work in certain areas.
We have two satellite personal safety devices available: SPOT Gen4 and SPOT X. If you are working in rural locations, we have more in-depth health and safety advice when working in remote areas.
Improve personal safety with a personal safety alarm
Personal safety alarms are available in the form of dedicated devices, or can be activated on your smartphone by downloading specialist applications. The benefits of having a personal safety alarm go far beyond the security felt simply by carrying one.
Connected to a 24/7 Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), alarms can be activated at any time of day and be answered by an expert call handler who is trained to deal with emergency situations. If you are given a personal safety alarm for work, remember that you can use the device outside of working hours, especially when making journeys alone and in the dark.
As part of the accreditation process, all Peoplesafe solutions have built-in GPS capabilities that we have enhanced with What3Words technology so we can pinpoint your location to within 5m² when you raise an alarm. For more information about how we can help to protect your personal safety, get in touch with us today.
Practicing these personal safety habits is likely to reduce your stress levels. Situations that pose personal safety risks are typically stressful, for example, walking through a field alone in the dark with no one else in sight to help.
Focusing on personal safety shouldn’t stop you from doing things you enjoy or living a normal life; it’s about taking the appropriate steps to stay safe. Adopting good personal safety habits means that you act on the safety hazards you have the power to control and influence.