As an employee, you will be spending lots of time at work: the office, retail space, work site, or wherever your base might be. Knowing how to prevent threats to your safety will be beneficial if an unsafe situation unexpectedly arises.
Autism can impair your alertness at work. You may have difficulty with balance, organizational skills, hygiene, or emotions. By taking extra precautions, you are more likely to avoid injuries, illnesses, violations to personal safety, and getting caught in an emergency.
Common injuries at work include getting hit by a falling object, muscle overuse, tripping, electrical accidents, and of course the infamous papercut. (I am so serious about that.) Accidents happen quickly and sneakily, so it is important to always be aware of your surroundings. Consider these tips:
- Take your time. When you rush, you are more likely to drop something or cause an accident.
- Avoid shortcuts. For example, skipping a step in a list of instructions – Skipping a part of the process can result in something going wrong.
- Be knowledgeable about tools. Know how to use dangerous tools before picking them up.
- Wear closed-toe shoes. This will decrease your chances of tripping or falling objects landing on your feet.
- Be kind to your body. Do not overdue labor intensive tasks that will put too much strain on your body. Also, get plenty of rest and hydration. You can make more mistakes if you are fatigued or dehydrated.
You will be sharing your personal space with a variety of people: coworkers and customers alike. Germs. They can spread pretty quickly. Germs are frustrating because you can not see them, so illness might seem harder to prevent than accidents, which often involve visible components like heavy objects or chemicals. This can be boiled down to a single word: hygiene. Your autism may affect your ability to take care of your hygiene. It is easy to prevent illness if you learn and practice hygiene skills. Here’s how to stay healthy:
- Wash your hands. In order to make sure you have clean hands, sing the ABCs (it is the perfect length of time) and slather on the soap.
- Be aware of any chemically hazardous material. These include cleaning supplies and carbon monoxide.
- Clean your area. The more you take care of your workspace, the less likely you are to pick up germs.
- Stay away. If you are sick, stay away from others. If others are sick, stay away from them and their space.
When a Disaster Hits
Unfortunately, you can’t prevent natural disasters. Natural disasters include fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, heat waves, or any type of weather related activity. Sensory overload can affect the way you respond in an emergency. There will be loud noises, bright sirens, and lots of people bumping into you and rushing to exit the building. It is easy to get overwhelmed within seconds. Consider the following tips:
- Know the building’s exit strategy in case of a fire
- Have a plan in case an earthquake hits (have a place to hide under)
- Know how to navigate yourself to the basement in case of tornado or hurricane
OAR’s A Guide to Safety offers more tips about what do before an emergency hits. The guide suggests the following points:
- Be confident in what to do
- Outline a plan
- Practice the plan
- “What if” drills — The “what if” drill means going through scenarios and coming up with a proper reaction given each situation. This will help you think critically through possible scenarios.
Personal safety is the potential of harm due to others’ behaviors, emotionally or physically. Some threats to personal safety include bullying, harassment, burglary, and violence. As someone with autism, it is important to be aware of when your personal safety could be at risk. Be prepared and protect yourself by following these tips:
- Identify a bully, approach the bully, and control your response. Ask for help when this happens, you need to talk to someone about it and they can help you understand your emotions before creating a plan.
- Make sure your office has a plan in case there is a violent threat in your environment.
- In garages, park in a well lit area or near a security station. Many attacks can happen in parking garages.
- Know where to hide in case someone dangerous enters your worksite.
- Have a peer for emotional support. It is beneficial if you can find one person in the office to turn to if you feel someone is being aggressive towards you.
- Disclose your disability to prevent discrimination. Sharing your diagnosis can result in a more supportive work environment and support system. Coworkers are more likely to stand behind you if they are informed of your diagnosis.
Your safety is the most important thing, not just at work, but everywhere. Be alert, be safe, and work on.
For more information, please refer to OAR’s Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide to Safety.