Meeting Health And Safety Standards As A Business Owner

Those who own and run a company that inhabits an office or retail space and employ a number of staff need to make sure their premises and business practices meet health and safety standards set by local authorities and government bodies so that they steer clear of financial and legal penalties, as well as harm to staff. In order to keep your staff, yourself, and your business safe, owners need to make sure that they meet these standards in the property, or space that they occupy.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

To ensure that their premises is safe, accessible and meeting the health and safety standards required, a business owner may need to make appropriate changes to the premises, or their daily routine, to guarantee that their company operates in a safe way.

Security and Safety

Businesses should make sure that their premises are both secure and safe so that they can prevent damage to property and injury to staff and customers. Business owner’s whose offices or retails spaces occupy the upper storeys of a building should make sure that their windows are safe and are only able to be partially opened to prevent serious injury from falling, and have suitable locks to help to help deter criminal activities.

Security measures also need to be applied to doors, and businesses that possess valuable items may want to make use of pin entry system as a precautionary measure. A business needs to also consider how they would evacuate a property and therefore management need to adhere to a building’s fire evacuation procedure, or create one of their own that will allow customers and staff to exit safely should an incident occur.

Access for All

Businesses in any industry need to make sure that their premises are accessible to all. In the UK, businesses need to comply with The Equality Act 2010 and make appropriate changes that allow for those with disabilities to easily enter and use the property and
space. Installing ramps and automatic doors will help those less able gain access to the premises.

Regulate Breaks

When employing individuals, businesses should adhere to the legal requirements in regards to regular breaks and working hours. Anyone who is over 18 and works more than six hours a day or shift is legally entitled to a 20 minute break, but businesses whose employees work in manual labour or spend their day using a computer may want to provide longer, or more regular breaks to avoid reduction of productivity and health issues.

Clean Work Space

The area in which your business operates should be kept to a high standard of cleanliness so as to avoid illness, contamination, and pests. An unclean premises can lead to serious problems in regards to employee performance, customer satisfaction, and even building structure if neglected for an extensive period of time. All of these problems can leave a business failing and unable to make a profit. By ensuring that your workplace is regularly cleaned and tidied by a professional office cleaner, your business can avoid any financial and legal problems that may arise from an unkempt office space and ensure that daily running and productivity is maintained at a high level.

Trained First Aider

Having a trained First Aider who is employed by your business means that should any incidents occur that require medical assistance, there is instant help available. Businesses will want to provide First Aid training courses for a select amount of their employees so that accidents and incidents that happen in the workplace can be quickly taken care of and assessed as to whether further medical assistance is needed.


About the Author: Beth Stubbings thinks that it is important for all businesses to be conscious of health and safety not only because they need to meet legal requirements, but also because of the effect it has on profits and staff productivity. She would recommend Bristol Cleaners to companies that require an office cleaning service for their business.

Building a Surveillance System on a Budget

Building a decent surveillance system for your home or office doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. In fact, you may already possess most of what you need to build a small network of cameras around any areas you’re interested in surveying. You don’t even need special training or a technical degree to implement a cost efficient and effective system; byusing wireless IP cameras and your computer, you can watch and record streaming video directly to your system.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

1. Cameras – There are many brands of IP cameras thatcan work well for your needs without requiring an expensive investment. Cameras like the Airlink 101 SkyIPCam1500W offer a range of features and can easily connect to virtually any wireless network. Loaded with night-vision technology, these cameras are inexpensive and work well for monitoring doorways, rooms and other areas you may want to cover.

2. Router – Unless you have custom settings entered into your router for DHCP or other connections, virtually any wireless router will work with these IP cameras. As default settings go, the entire setup can be as easy as plug-and-play. However, keep in mind that you’ll have greater wireless coverage for your network with more powerful routers.

3. Computer Software – Many of these cameras utilize software that you install on your computer. This software can control most of the recording aspects of your surveillance system, including support for multiple monitors. Each camera saves its recordings to individual folders on your computer for ease of use. While this software may be a quick and small installation, each camera folder can take up a lot of hard drive space. If you have a desktop computer or a server, it would be wise to install a separate hard drive for nothing more than camera recordings.

4. Monitoring the Cameras – While most camera software will allow you to watch all of the cameras in unison, many of them will also support the ability to connect to them directly. By using the camera’s IP address in a web browser, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, you can directly access the camera and view the live stream. This kind of access will also allow you to change different settings of the camera, such as wireless network access, night-vision, motion sensing and other features the camera might have.

5. Easy to Install – Depending on the model of your camera and where you buyit,it’s possible to start running your own single camera surveillance system today for less than $100. Although setting the camera up may take a little work, the camera can typically be plugged in and set up in its location in less than an hour. Since many of these camera brands are stackable, you are able to add the same model of camera to your surveillance system later and manage the recordings from a single piece of software. The software included in cameras such as the Airlink 101 SkIPCam can support up to 16 simultaneous cameras.

For those on a tight budget, this may be a more ideal solution for an affordable way to build an effective surveillance system. As long as the cameras can connect to your wireless network, you can place them in virtually any locale that power can reach. Day or night, monitor your home or business from the convenience of your own computer or laptop.

About the Author: Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

Cheated By The Fine Print? Contractors And Worker’s Comp

Independent contractors are eligible to file for workers’ compensation if they have their own workers’ compensation insurance or if they were hired to do a job by a company that provides these benefits.Landscapers, skilled tradespeople, painters, construction and domestic workers, and other types of independent contractors are deceived into believing that they are not entitled to workers’ compensation because they are not regular employees of a company. However, they are entitled to workers’ compensation in certain instances. 

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

Companies who hire uninsured independent contractors to do a job must provide workers’ compensation insurance for them and anyone else the independent contractor hires to work on the job. So, independent contractors are entitled to workers’ compensation just like a company’s regular employees.

According to Stokes & Kopitsky, “Even if you work for a subcontractor who claims he is not responsible for providing
workers’ compensation, an experienced premises liability lawyer can help you find a general contractor or union that is. Independent contractors may have a personal injury claim for negligence that is not barred by workers’ compensation law.”

Independent Contractor or Employee?

Independent contractors differ from employees in the sense that they work for themselves whereas an employee works for a company. Independent contractors determine their own work hours, have their own tools or materials, get paid by the job, and pay their own local, state and federal taxes. Independent contractors are not covered by certain labor and employee laws. To cover themselves if they are injured on the job, independent contractors should purchase their own liability insurance and a workers’ compensation insurance policy.

Employees, on the other hand, earn wages and are obligated to follow the rules of the company who pay
s them. A company sets employees’ work hours, provides employees with tools and materials to do their job and withholds the local, state and federal taxes from their paychecks. Employees are protected by labor and employment laws and are entitled to workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job.

Misclassification of Employees

A debate has been raging for quite some time now over companies that classify an employee as an independent contractor. Companies save money in misclassifying employees because they are not obligated to withhold income taxes and provide benefits, such as overtime, unemployment insurance and family and medical leave.

The U.S. Labor Department has joined with states to look into this problem and is holding companies liable when they are found to have intentionally misclassified workers. Because the state and federal governments a
re working with the IRS over this issue, companies have been advised to review the status of each employee to make sure they are in compliance with federal and state labor laws.

Providing Benefits for Independent Contractors

Under the federal Fair Play Act, independent contractors carry the status of “employee” of companies who hire them. This is why a company who hires an uninsured independent construction worker to perform a job must provide workers’ compensation benefits.

If you are an independent contractor without workers’ compensation insurance, it would be to your advantage to purchase an insurance policy. However, if you have been told that you are not entitled to workers’ compensation, research federal laws and laws of your state or contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to get clarification before addressing the matter with the company who hired you

About the Author: Domonique Powell is an independent contractor who enjoys sharing information with others.

The Benefits Of VoIP For SMEs

Voice over Internet Protocol has evolved dramatically as a technology in the last few years and as it becomes cheaper to install, more SMEs are implementing it in place of traditional systems.

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License: Creative Commons image source

Unlike traditional means VoIP is a far more flexible option with a huge array of features and massive flexibility. As a solution for communication issues it’s a fantastic alternative to the traditional and offers a number of benefits which we’re going to take a closer look at here.

Big Player

The thing about VoIP is that it allows small businesses on mediocre budgets to keep up with larger companies that can benefit from advanced communication tools, at a far lower cost. This is the beauty of VoIP. Unlike a few years ago,
when options  such as IVRs, call recording and audio conferencing were expensive and costly to implement, VoIP has changed this. This allows SMEs to work smarter and also give the impression they are larger businesses than they are.

Scalability

The scalability of the service is also something of note and VoIP can be easily added, expanded and altered as and when required. You can simply add or change phone numbers and as they’re not tied to your local exchange you can have any number you want from anywhere in the world you want. This sort of scalability and the options that come with it are something that a lot of people really like and the reasons a lot of SMEs in a wide range of businesses love this service.

Not Office Limited

Thanks to the wonders of the smart phone VoIP is not just limited to the office and in fact is easily extendable to mobile phones thanks to 3G. In essence, this means that it’s easy to carry all your office contacts and information in your pocket and remain in contact when on the road or away from home. For businesses with home workers this is also of benefit as it means they can work from home and still seem to be in the office. The other big benefit is that there are no expensive calls, as there would be if you were using it on a mobile phone contract.

VoIP works well for the vast majority of SMEs and it’s understandable why this is the case. Here are a few little things http://solutionbuilders.co.uk advise you  to consider before implementing such a system.

  • Look at the requirements of your staff and see whether a service like this will benefit them and the way they work.
  • Cost is a big factor for moving to VoIP. The best way to determine whether or not you should is by chec
    king your mobile and communication costs. It’s often easily possible to save 50% on costs with a VoIP service when compared to traditional lines.
  • VoIP is simply a voice call over the Internet – it should be not more complex than that, so don’t feat change
  • Will your business begin to grow soon? If so VoIP could be a far better option than trying to expand traditional channels.
  • Ask questions – a telecommunications vendor should answer them for you.

VoIP is a fantastic addition to a range of businesses and you should consider it if you’re looking for a change to your phone system or communications in general.

About the Author: Cormac Reynolds has written about technology for a half decade and has covered a range of solutions. He is a lover of sports and travel.

Issues That Small Businesses May Face in 2014

Small businesses in the year 2014 are expected to face a few more crucial issues that would play a critical role in running of companies. It won’t be wrong to say that in the coming year most of the small businesses are heading with plenty of uncertainty. Slow hiring and changing trends too are expected to affect the small businesses. Not to point out to the negative scenario, small businesses in the coming year may have to face implications and complications regarding the health care law as well.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

Considering the current scenario, uncertainty is the bane of most of the small businesses. The only rational response will be dependent on pulling the horns and literally slowing down. Chances are that the small businesses may or may not get enough encouragement from the economy. Not everything is gloomy.

Let’s take a look at some of the issues that the small businesses are likely to face in the year 2014.

Taxes

Tax makers are still hanging this issue and we would interestingly call it fiscal cliff. Not to mention, budget cuts and the increase in taxes are also going to have a good impact on the pace of growth for the small businesses. Even if an interesting agreement is reached, small businesses may still struggle to thrive on the kind of certainty they have been expecting since long. We are sure to discuss on the issue every year and it is an issue that is going to take time to resolve. If the scenario doesn’t change for good then the negotiations and uncertainty are sure to raise other issues in the coming year.

Now the good news is that you can expect the deduction any time. For the time being, it can be said that business owners should not just focus on getting the big break of their corporate life. Tax rates are going to pose huge changes for the small companies that are looking to making bigger investments. All these are going to affect the retailers and the other small businesses in the process, particularly the ones that are involved in selling directly to public.

Shortage of skilled workers

Most of the small businesses are struggling from this issue, they know how tough it is to find the skilled workers in the market. They hardly have the desired talents willing to join them to fill in some of the crucial job positions in their companies. Most of the manufacturing companies are looking for high-tech skills and settling for anything less is not convincing to them.

Few job positions require exhaustive training but a basic skill set is required and unfortunately small businesses are made to compromise on that. Since the trends in working style and changes in technology are becoming evident, business owners are finding it really hard to find the qualified workers; issues are expected to continue in the year 2014.

Health care

Health care is definitely one of the other resources in line that are making things uncertain for the small business in the upcoming year. Health care laws in the coming time are going to affect us all and more importantly, the small businesses.

Most of the small businesses should consider devoting some time understanding and analysing all aspects of law relating to health care. If they are planning to expand overseas then understanding the same on the global level should have an impact on the running of the business too.

Lot of small business owners are still unsure on the fact whether they will have their states creating some forms of exchanges or whether they will be required to go a bit into the national system. On the other hand, they are still going to be unsure about how these changes are going to affect the costs.

Other issues that the small businesses in the year 2014 are going to face are concerns relating with onshoring and lending. It’s time for small business to gear up and pull up their socks because the market of 2014 is going to bring them plenty of challenges. If they can cover up for their losses and focus on the drawbacks, they are sure to reach the pinnacle of success in no time. However, sustaining the elevated position is going to be yet another challenge.

About the Author: This article is contributed by Samme who is associated with a leading UK based supplier of Office Cable Protectors – CableProtector.co.uk. Click here to visit the Office Cable Protectors landing page.

 

Does Your Business Have an Active Shooter Protocol?

6461365189_85ba18e618Unfortunately, 2013 proved that no school or business is completely safe from random shooting incidents and potential terrorist activity. Because of this, it is imperative for every company to develop an active shooter protocol so that they can keep their employees as safe as possible if a situation develops. Additionally, this is something that you need to keep in mind if you are in the process of opening a new business. After all, nobody is immune to the threat of having someone simply walk into their business with a gun, and this can lead to disastrous consequences if you are not prepared.

Tips for Developing an Active Shooter Protocol

There are professional security companies such as MSA Security, which can help train your staff to deal with an active shooter situation. You can also implement safety measures such as a security checkpoint at the entrance to help minimize the risk of dealing with this type of issue. However, it will still be necessary to give your staff members some training about the steps that they should take if they become aware that there is an active shooter on-site.

According to experienced security companies, there are certain things that every civilian should do during active shooter situation, including stay calm, turn off the lights, remain silent, lock or barricade all windows and doors, hide or flee depending on the situation, call 911 if possible and play dead or hide if a shooter is in the same room. It is also necessary for all of your staff members to understand that they will need to make their hands visible when the police arrive and avoid making any sudden moves until they are told that is okay to do so.

Working with Your Insurance Company

Some insurance providers will offer you literature that can help you develop an active shooter protocol. Additionally, it is possible that you could receive a discount on your insurance if you put an approved plan in place. After all, this will help minimize your insurance provider’s risk, so it is always a good idea to inquire about this possibility. Either way, you should still be committed to developing a protocol that will help your employees avoid serious injury or death if an active shooter makes the decision to target your business.

Should I Invest in a Security Company?

It can be difficult for small business owners to contemplate utilizing part of their budget for a security company, especially if they do not operate in a high-profile industry. Therefore, you need to carefully consider your company’s specific needs and risks to help you determine the appropriate steps to take. Fortunately, many security companies are willing to do a one-time assessment that will include helping you develop your active shooter protocol without needing to pay for their services on a continual basis.

As you can see, it is necessary for every business owner to be cognizant of the fact that an active shooter could enter their building at any time. Due to this, you need to develop a proven method for assisting your employees during this stressful situation. Putting an active shooter protocol in place and ensuring that each of your employees understands exactly what to do can make the difference between a controllable situation and a bloodbath.

Why Giving Back Is A Good Business Investment

5616353751_bb98b1184dIf you are looking for a new way to promote teamwork and attract new local customers, you should carefully consider looking into volunteering opportunities for your company. After all, many consumers prefer to support businesses that place a focus on giving back to their community. Therefore, it is always a good idea for companies of all sizes to be charitable, and volunteering your time often has a bigger impact than making a cash donation.

Top Reasons to Volunteer as a Company

1. To Instill Goodwill in the Community – Every company needs to be concerned about their reputation, and volunteering will help cast your business in a much better light. This can become crucial if there are ever any controversies that impact your company, and it can also make a big difference if your business ends up teetering on the edge of needing to file for bankruptcy. After all, members of the local community are much more likely to rally around your company and offer support if you have given back in the past. It’s always good to look for Local volunteer opportunities within the community.

2. To Boost Company Morale – It has been proven by psychologists that volunteering has several emotional benefits that make it good for everyone to be involved in giving back. Due to this, many companies decide to volunteer as a team because it can have a direct impact on company morale. Additionally, getting people out of the office and letting them work with each other on a good cause can help smooth out interoffice difficulties.

3. To Reap the Marketing Benefits – Your company could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing without receiving the same positive boost that often accompanies being included in a press release or news story due to your team’s volunteering efforts. It is also important to note that you will gain the right to mention your volunteer and charitable work in your marketing materials, and this can definitely capture the attention of a much wider audience.

4. Community Service Opportunity – Regardless of whether you simply work in the local area or also live there, it is always a good idea to take advantage of a community service opportunity because this will make the entire area more desirable to consumers. After all, volunteering as a team to clean up a stretch of highway or rebuild a local park will boost your community’s profile by making it more aesthetically pleasing. Ultimately, this could lead to an influx of new residents who are likely to become customers of local businesses such as yours.

Volunteering and participating in other charitable ways will also provide you with a tax deduction, and this makes it a win-win situation for everyone involved. Therefore, every business owner should strongly consider encouraging their entire team to volunteer on a regular basis.

In fact, when you consider all of the perks that are associated with volunteering, it is surprising that there are so many companies that fail to take advantage of this mutually beneficial method for giving back to their local community. If you are unsure how to get started, you can easily utilize a local volunteering organization to provide you with some direction.

 

Why A Virtual Call Center Makes Sense for Your Business

2435823037_2f67cc65b1_mMany business owners erroneously believe that they can provide a higher level of service to their customers by having a live receptionist available during working hours. Although there definitely are some benefits to providing people with the opportunity to connect to a live switchboard operator, this is no longer a necessity due to the virtual call center option. In fact, making the switch to a virtual call center can actually help you greatly increase your customer satisfaction.

How Does a Virtual Call Center Work?

In the standard business environment, a customer’s call will be answered by a receptionist who than determines which office number to connect them with. Unfortunately, there are many drawbacks to this approach, including the fact that calls can be missed when the receptionist is already speaking to someone else. Additionally, it is important to note that even a highly professional receptionist can still have a bad day, and this could end up reflecting poorly on your business.

Due to this, it is becoming increasingly common for companies to switch to a virtual call center company like Avoxi. This option provides callers with a recorded message that politely thanks them for calling and expedites the process of appropriately transferring their call. As an added bonus, you will have many quality control options that you can utilize via an online dashboard such as the option to review the time and length of each call and even listen to them if you have the recording feature turned on.

Additional Perks of a Virtual Call Center

Every company from home-based businesses to large brick-and-mortar locations can save a lot of time, money and customer frustration by switching to a virtual call center. After all, you will never need to worry about someone taking a break, being tied up on another line or treating your customers poorly because they are having a bad day. It is important to note that a virtual call center is less expensive than paying a receptionist’s salary, and it will never need sick or vacation leave. Your customers are also certain to love the fact that they will be able to connect with the appropriate voicemail 24/7 because you have a virtual call center in place.

Effective Call Screening

Many high-profile businesses need to screen their callers to ensure that they do not spend a lot of time discussing irrelevant matters such as whether or not they want to change their long-distance provider. A virtual call center will make it easier to connect salespeople with a specific voicemail that is monitored for any legitimate calls that need to be returned. Alternatively, if you have a live receptionist in place, they are much more likely to get worn down by the persistence of salespeople, and this could cause them to connect high-level employees with undesirable callers.

As you can see, having a virtual call center will provide you with several notable perks. Due to this, it is no wonder that so many leading businesses have already made the switch. You can improve your customer service and reduce your expenses by signing up for a virtual call center and moving away from a traditional receptionist environment.