Just Like Your Mom Said – Safety First

In my profession of economic development, we take on many roles – community host, tour leader, meeting facilitator – and often spend considerable time with strangers. Similarly, in other business sectors, women travel extensively, interact with people they do not personally know, and work odd hours in odd locations. Safety protocols is a topic that warrants attention but is often pushed to the side for another time.

Safety is integral to workplace culture

I receive regular safety training as a licensed real estate broker but have never had a safety briefing at any economic development meeting or conference, even though we often act in a similar capacity to realtors. This raised a bright red flag a couple of years ago. Some professions place an importance on safety while others don’t even mention it. I have attended meetings where the agenda begins with a ‘safety briefing’ discussing the locations of exits, preferred exit routes and potential hazards in an office environment. This protocol says that safety is integral to the culture of the meeting host. I hope your profession has a culture of safety. If not, it’s time to start one.

To fill this void in our industry, Creative EDC developed and published a Safety Guide specifically for the economic development profession. We debuted it at the 2018 Women’s Economic Development Network conference. The brochure includes protocols and practices for your office as well as tips and reminders for travel. Even though the guide was created for the economic development profession, it applies to many office work environments. Some of the tips are considered “common sense.” However, in the rush to meet deadlines and accomplish daily tasks, we often push safety to a back burner. Regularly reviewing safety protocols keeps it in the front of your mind. You can view the guide here.

Safety Policies should be the norm

Talking about safety with people in your organization can be the foundation for creating new norms and policies. Some examples: What are your company’s protocols for traveling with opposite sex business associates? Do you have a check-in policy? Does/should your company allow/provide GPS trackers for employees that meet off-site with strangers? Does/should your company provide roadside assistance for employees that travel extensively? If your company already has safety policies in place, make sure they are regularly reviewed. If not, start a conversation on ‘the top 10 things our company can do to ensure everyone is safe’.

When discussing safety with professional women, we have found that most veterans have a story or two to share of lessons learned. Beyond company safety policies, there are personal safety protocols women use to keep safe. A few of mine are: don’t eat or drink at the restaurant bar alone; don’t announce my travel plans in public; maintain professionalism even at a social meeting; and don’t allow colleagues to bring anything (flip chart, handouts, laptop, etc.) to my hotel room. I like talking with male colleagues about their personal safety policies when traveling with women business associates. Strike up a similar conversation in your work place.

Every organization can brush up on best practices and protocols. Make safety a priority for your team by making both women and men aware of them.  We can all work towards a safer working environment both in the office and on the road for everyone.

Top 10 Safety Tips For Working Women Who Travel    

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings.
  • Anticipate your exit route and park your car so that it cannot be blocked in.
  • Park in well-lighted spaces.
  • Keep your gas tank above half-full.
  • Keep your phone charged and have 911 programmed in speed dial.
  • Always lock your car and close the windows.
  • Avoid solo meetings when possible.
  • Limit personal information shared in marketing.
  • Check in with your office frequently.
  • Carry your car keys in your hand. They can be an effective weapon in case of an attack.

This blog post was written by Crystal Morphis, CEcD, a GW4W member.  

Crystal Morphis formed Creative Economic Development Consulting, LLC in 2012. Creative EDC is an entrepreneurial, innovative firm with a unique commitment to give back to the field of economic development. The firm provides strategic planning, product development, impact analysis, and organizational development services. In 2013, Creative EDC launched a web-based site assessment tool, www.creativesiteassessment.com. It helps economic developers assess potential business development sites through an independent ranking and prioritization system. In 2015, the firm relaunched the nationally-recognized Certified Entrepreneurial Community® program. In 2016, the firm created the first Certified Industrial Building Program.

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