Parking lots are easy to ignore. We use them at least twice a day to stow and shelter our cars, but beyond that they’re fairly invisible. A closer look, however, reveals that they are an integral part of overall worker safety and health and must considered in an organization’s workplace safety plan.
Here are a few tips that can help employees stay safe in parking lots and garages, whether on your premises or off-site.
- If you walk after of hours, don’t do it alone. Get a co-worker or security officer to walk with you.
- If you have to walk alone, ask someone to watch from inside, if possible. Turn around frequently to be sure you’re not being followed. Pretend to wave to someone ahead to give the impression you’re not alone.
- Park near the building in a visible, lighted area.
- Park near the parking attendant, if there is one, or near a well-lighted exit.
- Use the main exit/entrance rather than a side or secluded one.
- Lock any valuables (including GPS, shopping, other bags, etc.) out of sight.
- Have car keys and personal alarm or whistle ready as you approach your vehicle.
- If someone nearby looks suspicious, keep walking and get to a safe place where you can call for help.
- Before you unlock the door, take a good look around, inside, and behind the vehicle.
- Once you enter your vehicle, promptly lock all doors and keep windows up until you’ve exited the lot or garage.
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According to security expert Michael Edward Loftus, Sr. (www.crime-safety-security.com), the best lessons about parking lot safety come from actual crime victims. He recommends carrying pepper spray and a personal alarm in full view. Constantly scan 360 degrees around you as well.
Loftus explains: “Parked cars provide hiding spots for a crouching stealthy predator to close in on you unless you’re especially aware of your surroundings at all times.
That means no talking on the cell phone or listening to music with ear pods, because predators look for those who are distracted and unaware. They also target people who:
- Appear friendly, timid, or lost
- Are unaware of being followed
- Park close to trucks, which can provide cover for the predator
- Are loaded down with bags or other items
Loftus advises employees, especially women, to avoid using parking garage stairs and elevators. These locations permit a criminal to isolate a victim and muffle screams and the sound of an alarm. They also deprive a person of an escape route. Instead, walk in the middle of aisles and ramps.
Also, be alert for cruising vehicles. “Predators can suddenly stop and jump out to rob or kidnap you,” Loftus warns.
Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards
Security risks aren’t the only parking lot/garage hazards. There are any number of slip, trip, and fall hazards as well. For example:
- Wet or icy pavements
- Reduced visibility when it’s dark out
- Uneven surfaces such as raised sidewalks, potholes, and cracks
- Tire bumpers that extend beyond the edge of a parked car
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Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to make parking lots and garages safer and prevent falls. For example:
- Paint curbs and bumpers with high-visibility paint.
- Establish pedestrian walkways through lots and garages, and mark these zones with high-visibility paint and signs.
- Clear snow and ice early before employees arrive at work, and keep open lots clear during work hours.
- Make sure parking lots and garages are well lit.
- Fix potholes, cracks, and other walking surface hazards promptly.
- Encourage employees to wear smart footwear, especially in bad weather. If they want to wear high heels or other dress shoes, they can change once they get inside.
- Train them to avoid falls on ice by shuffling forward in short movements.
- Provide rain and snow mats at building entrances.
- Remind employees to walk, not run, and watch where they’re going in parking lots and garages. Employees should avoid carrying loads that block visibility.
- Encourage employees to report slip, trip, and fall hazards—or other hazards—in parking lots and garages. Then act promptly to correct hazards.