Workplace Safety

How Employers and Employees Can Best Protect Themselves and Their Company’s Intellectual Property

Grab a cup of coffee and open the paper on any given day, and you’ll likely see a story involving workplace safety—whether in the form of theft, physical harassment or personal harm. Thankfully, not all stories end with dire or deadly consequences, but there is no denying that workplace safety is a growing issue facing our country.  And we, as business owners and tenants, have a responsibility to our staff, ourselves and our company’s IP to take steps to ensure a safe and secure environment in which to work.  

Personal Safety

Although workplace violence can happen anywhere at any time, OSHA states that the following workers can be at increased risk:

  • Employees who exchange money with the public
  • Those who work alone or in small groups
  • Those who work early morning or late-night shifts
  • Workers in the following industries: health care, social services, utilities, phone and cable TV installers, mail carriers and retail.

Perhaps the top priority for employers—and likely the easiest to facilitate—is access control. With today’s advanced technology, ensuring that only authorized individuals are able to gain access to your facility is greater than ever. Top of the list would be security cameras and alarm systems, which should be must-have features for all employers! Modern security monitoring systems can even connect to your smartphone or tablet, alerting you when something suspicious takes place.

Consider exterior fencing, when appropriate. Install digital security cameras with motion detectors and license plate readers; have emergency call boxes available; and hire roving security officers! Even simple steps such as improving outdoor lighting and signage notifying the public that the area is under constant surveillance could be a significant deterrence. 

On an individual level, employers should provide safety education for all employees! Ensure field staff and those working alone have cellphones and handheld alarms—and consider asking them to report in regularly. Instruct workers to neverenter a location that they feel may be unsafe. Create an emergency plan for your office in the event of a natural or man-made threat and have regular drills to ensure everyone knows the steps to be taken to evacuate the building if the need ever arises.

IP Protection

In addition to employers’ most important asset—its people—we must also put in place processes and procedures to protect our other asset: intellectual property. With today’s far-reaching and ominous “cloud,” we must be even more vigilant!  

Every breach starts with a cybercriminal making a decision about what to hack, whether through phishing an employee with privileged access or exploiting a software vulnerability. A large reason why this is so successful is an ignorance of the scope of cyberthreats and how they play into the average employee’s daily lives. Hackers have been using the same basic techniques for years, which continue to work time after time. The 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report notes that four percent of employees will click on phishing links. This number may seem low, but in an organization of a 1,000 people, this still means that hackers have 40 opportunities to enter the system.

While security teams will always need constant vigilance to protect their systems, organizations can make their jobs easier by bringing all employees up to speed on cyber threats. While every person may never become a security expert, a little security savvy goes a long way.

Best Practices

  • Use strong passwords (longer is better!) and change them regularly.
  • Keep your sensitive login credentials private.
  • Be very wary of opening emails and attachments from sources that you do not recognize.
  • Do not install software or connect hardware to your business’s network without permission.
  • When working from home, make sure your Internet connection is secure. 
  • Keep an eye on your devices and never leave them with strangers.
  • Look for privacy in places like airports and coffee shops. Sit where no one can see over your shoulder.
  • Dim the screen on your device or get a privacy filter so it is harder for strangers to see what is on your device.
  • Do not discuss sensitive information in public areas or where people can eavesdrop on your conversation.
  • When sharing and transferring data:
    • Verify the recipient. Do not send to the wrong person! Take a minute to double-check the recipient before you hit ‘send.’
    • Verify the data. You do not want to send the wrong data, even if it is to the right person. Glance over your attached document one last time and reread your email.
    • Verify the method. Transfer data according to best practice or in line with your organization’s policies. 

In general, consider more robust access-control measures. There are dual authentication capabilities (i.e., facial recognition technology that validates an employee’s proximity card) for more critical areas of the office such as a computer room or a power supply area. Also, limit access to these areas to only those individuals who work in those departments. 

While it is unfortunate that we have to address these issues, with a little thought, planning, investment and time, employers and employees can ensure a safe and secure environment for us all. Contact me for more information, I am happy to help tenants gain secure surroundings.