Every employee has the right to feel safe in her job. You don’t have to put up with feeling threatened or scared. If you’ve experienced or witnessed a situation that has affected you so much that it interferes with your work, causes you to feel fearful, or even prevents you from wanting to go to your job, there are specific steps you can take. If you’ve tried, but find you’re not able to resolve the situation to your satisfaction, you may want to consider changing jobs, because your safety at work is of the utmost importance.
Determine the Cause
Before taking further action, figure out the cause of your apprehension. A variety of reasons could be at play, including bullying from co-workers or management, workplace violence, domestic abuse that has followed you to work, and hazardous working conditions. Be clear on what exactly happened to create your feelings. Your clarity on this point will help you to state your case, and may serve to reduce or eliminate the effects of what’s going on.
Keep a Written Log
After you’ve determined the source of your feelings, keep a daily written record of events that happen that contribute to your fearfulness. For example, if your work hours require you to arrive when it’s dark outside, and you’ve been approached by a stranger in the parking lot, log the date, time and what transpired. Or, if on your lunch break a co-worker has been consistently watching you and decides to advance in a threatening way, cornering you in a secluded area, make a note of it when the event occurred and the individual’s name and department, if you know this information.
Talk to Your Supervisor
Take your written journal with you to speak with your supervisor. If she is the cause of your discomfort, report the unwanted behavior to your supervisor’s manager or to human resources personnel. Don’t be afraid to go into full detail about the basis for your feelings. The person you speak with might make suggestions to remedy the situation. If she doesn’t, you can take the initiative and suggest some solutions yourself, such as beefing up security, guarding against unauthorized people at work or changing your work hours.
If you’re feeling unsafe because of hazardous conditions that have not been corrected, or if you’ve witnessed or experienced workplace violence, you can report the circumstances to the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Act department. This agency is responsible for enforcing regulations that guarantee workplace safety to maintain work environments that are “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” In the case of workplace violence, OSHA does not currently have specific standards, but your complaint will place your employer on notice, requiring the creation of a workplace violence prevention program that must be enforced by the employer.
- Excelle: What to Do if You’re Being Bullied at Work
- Zevgroup White Paper: Domestic Violence Goes to Work: What Employers Can and Must Do to Protect their Employees; Jennifer J. Hlapern, Ph.D.
- United States Department of Labor: OSHA: Standard Interpretations
- United States Department of Labor: OSHA: You Have the Right to a Safe Workplace
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