Always be prepared for the worst
With taxes, payroll, inventory and so many other things for a small business owner to juggle, worker safety may not always be at the forefront of your mind. But even if you have just one employee, both the federal government and your state have requirements that it’s important to adhere to.
Whether you manage a staff of several dozen people or strictly utilize contract workers, it’s wise to emphasize safety at your workplace. Not only will promoting safe conditions and practices give you an added layer of protection in the event of an accident (and remember, anything can happen), it also demonstrates to your employees, coworkers and clients that you’re a conscientious business that cares about the people it works with.
Perhaps you’ve never thought about business safety at all, apart from meeting the legal requirements your lawyer alerted you too when you opened your business. Even if you’re in a low-risk office environment, consider adding or updating the following items that are wise for any small business to keep on hand:
Disaster Plan and Supplies
What’s up with the weather lately? Areas of the country that once seemed relatively immune to natural disasters have been caught off guard in recent years, from tornadoes sweeping across the Southeast to a hurricane slamming into New England.
At your next meeting with employees, discuss a plan in the event of a tornado, earthquake or even a power outage. Make sure that your building has at least two ways out — windows that are stuck shut could prevent escape if a primary exit is blocked.
Keep gallons of water, some energy bars, batteries, flashlights, and a radio on hand (cell reception can go out during a major disaster), and make sure that everyone who spends time in your building knows where this is located.
First Aid Kit
If your office is large or has multiple levels, consider this one to be plural. Keep your kits stocked with antibiotic ointment, hot and cold packs, burn cream, bandages, tweezers, alcohol and over-the-counter pain relievers. Even if 99 out of 100 times, your first aid kit is utilized for headaches and paper cuts, you’ll be glad you have it in the event of a real emergency. The ability to stabilize a burn or cut victim until professional help arrives can mean the difference between life and death.
Put it on your calendar to check and restock your first aid kits every three months.
If there’s ever a fire or a major emergency at your office, it’s possible that first-time customers or visitors could be present. Even if your employees are all well-versed in emergency exits and a disaster plan, those less familiar with your business will instinctively panic.
Are your exit signs well-placed and lit? Check those bulbs.
If your business utilizes machinery, you’re likely well-versed in safety signage that warns people of possible dangers. Office workers, however, get few reminders about the hazards of their job. Consider placing friendly signs in bathrooms and communal areas, reminding employees to stretch and take breaks to prevent repetitive motion injuries to their wrists and back.
Safety Manuals and Training
Most businesses have a safety manual that’s distributed to employees when they begin their jobs. Few ever open and read this. Although the manuals are often designed to meet legal requirements, it’s worth following up with employees during meetings and workshops. An annual safety training refresher course can double as a team-building exercise, and it’s a chance for a business owner to say ‘thank you’ to employees by providing a tasty lunch while they discuss safety protocol at the business.
Even though the chances are (hopefully) slim of an emergency occurring, it’s always best to prepare for the worst. Employees who feel like their safety and health is genuinely considered and cared about by their superiors will be happier and more productive in their jobs.
About the Author: Jay Acker leads a group of producers who create OSHA safety manuals and other training materials for business customers. They make training kits, courseware and safety posters at www.safetyservicescompany.com.