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Parking Risks and How to Avoid Them

Parking is a part of most people’s everyday work routine into which they probably don’t put much thought. While it may seem like a mundane part of one’s daily routine, the reality is that most people use parking lots several times a day without acknowledging the inherent safety risks until it is perhaps too late. Though parking lots are a breeding ground for all sorts of accidents, it is important for employers and employees to know their dangers in order to help prevent accidents from occurring.

The two most common and preventable accidents that occur in parking lots are security accidents and slip, trip or fall hazards.

The National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, reports that more than 1 in 10 property crimes occur in parking lots or garages. Other violent crimes occur in parking lots due to the nature of these spaces. Dark or unlit areas provide the perfect environment for crimes to occur, especially given that many people walk to their cars alone. Parked cars also provide hiding spots for predators who can crouch behind them and remain unseen for long periods of time.

One of the more recent parking lot security incidents in the Massachusetts area occurred in a Braintree restaurant parking lot. On October 5, three suspects allegedly waited in a parking lot for a woman to approach her car. When she arrived, the men distracted her and stole her purse and then fled the scene afterwards in an Oldsmobile Aurora, according to police. The crime is still under investigation and the men have yet to be apprehended.

This is only one example of crime that can occur Massachusetts parking lots. Although these statistics and cases may be disconcerting for employers–many of whom are responsible for their own parking lots–or employees, there are simple steps that can be taken in order to prevent security breaches.

Here are a few tips to follow to ensure parking lot safety:

-Park in well-lit areas near the building or a well-lit area close to a parking attendant or parking lot exit.
-Never walk to your car alone after work hours. Instead, get a co-worker or security guard to accompany you. If this isn’t possible, make sure someone is watching you from inside the building. Turn around frequently to make sure no one is following you and, if necessary, you can give the impression that someone is waiting for you at your car by waving or pretending to greet someone in the car.
-Use a main exit or entrance rather than a secluded one.
-Have your car alarm ready as you approach your car.
-If someone in the vicinity of your vehicle looks suspicious, keep walking and get to a safe place where you can call for help.
-Don’t park next to large trucks as they provide great hiding spots for predators.
Examine around the outside and inside of your car before you unlock the door.
-Once inside your car, lock all the doors and windows right away until you leave the parking lot.

It is also important to be aware the types of people that predators target, including:
-People who seem friendly, timid or lost.
-People who are unaware they’re being followed.
-People who are bogged down with bags or other items.

Security risks aren’t the only parking lot hazard. Icy or wet pavement, coupled with low visibility, can increase the risk of slip, trip or fall accidents during the winter months. Uneven or cracked pavement is another major source of accidents. Extreme New England weather, including snow, sleet, ice and wind, also makes parking lots and garages dangerous places to walk and drive.

A parking lot injury can happen to anyone, even LA Laker star Steven Blake. Blake was sidelined from three games after puncturing his foot on a spike strip in a parking garage. Although this is a high-profile example of an injury, it serves as a reminder of how commonplace these injuries can be when if we are not vigilant and aware of our surroundings.

Here are some further tips to be aware of in order to avoid injury in parking lots and garages:
-Paint curbs and bumpers with paint that is highly visible and provide proper signage that warns of any dangers in a parking lot.
-Make sure parking garages and lots are well-lit, lights are maintained properly and light bulbs are changed frequently.
-Make sure pedestrian walkways are well-established and well-lit.
-Clear snow as early before pedestrians arrive to work as possible.
-Fix cracks and potholes promptly.
-Wear proper footwear while walking to and from your car and encourage your employees to do the same.
-Provide rain and snow mats.
-Never run through lots or garages, always walk carefully. Also, avoid carrying too much, as it might make you lose balance or block your visibility.

Safety and Health- In your Parking Lot? Safety Daily Advisor, November 13, 2012