Whether you run a construction business or clothing store, it’s essential that you uphold rigorous health and safety standards within your business. After all, not only would failing to do so put others at risk, but it could also lead to severe legal and financial ramifications should something go wrong.
With that in mind, here are some simple ways in which you can ensure you uphold health and safety standards within your small business.
Each country (and state) has different health and safety regulations that you, as a business owner, must follow. As a result, you should research specific guides and regulations ahead of time to ensure you have incorporated them into your business plan. Remember, many will also be industry-specific.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration outlines many of the common laws and regulations here, which should make it easier for you to understand your obligations. If you’ve hired a business lawyer, they will also be able to provide you guidance on the steps you should take moving forward.
Utilizing the latest technology and equipment can be instrumental in helping keep your employees safe at work. For example, if you run a construction business, investing in drone technology, such as the Matrice 350 can make it much easier to carry out accurate site inspections without your staff having to navigate their way through potentially hazardous areas.
Drones can also be used for on-site safety monitoring, which makes it easier for personnel to identify (and eradicate) hazards that could otherwise present as a significant health and safety risk.
While you likely have many bases to cover during your employee onboarding process, you should make health and safety training a priority. After all, if one person on your team is unfamiliar with your safety processes, they’re putting everybody at risk – including themselves. As such, this should form a core part of their initial training, and you should ensure that they know:
- Basic workplace safety procedures
- Basic hazards to look out for
- How to safely use equipment and tools within the workplace
- The importance of wearing PPE
- Emergency protocols
- How to file an accident/injury report
- Who to report workplace accidents/injuries too
- Basic first-aid skills
- Who to contact in the case of an emergency
In addition to in-person training, you may want to send over a safety booklet for your employees to browse through ahead of time. This can help them to familiarize themselves with your procedures, even if they’ve worked in a similar role beforehand. Links to safety videos can also prove to be beneficial during this time, primarily as “researchers have determined the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text.” This means they’re more likely to retain the information shared through videos or visual demonstrations.
However, all employees should refresh their knowledge throughout their tenure within your company, which means that you may want to offer yearly training courses – especially if new regulations are put in place. You may also want to enroll your team in external training courses in addition to those you offer on-site, as this can broaden and strengthen their knowledge and help to keep your workspace as safe as possible.
Filing an incident report after a health and safety breach occurs is vital for many reasons. Firstly, it can help determine the cause of the accident so that potential triggers are avoided in the future. As such, they are instrumental in ensuring your workplace is safe for all. This documentation is also useful should any legal action be taken.
Despite this, two-thirds of workplace injuries go unreported. There are many reasons for this – employees may not be aware that this is expected from them, or they may be worried about facing ramifications. However, it’s important that you stress the importance of these reports when upholding safety standards for all -especially as they can help ensure that the same incident does not happen again.
Installing relevant health and safety signs throughout your business can also be beneficial when upholding safety standards. For example, exits, especially emergency or fire exits, should be clearly signposted. However, you should also include safety instructions within construction sites or by any potentially dangerous equipment and machinery – such as signs that advise users to wear the appropriate PPE.
As mentioned previously, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that they provide their employees with access to a safe workspace, which means that you should offer PPE when necessary. For example, if employees are going to be spending time in overly noisy environments, such as factory floors or construction sites, then you should provide them with some kind of ear protection, such as earplugs or headphones.
Other forms of workplace PPE include:
- Safety helmets or hardhats
- High-vis clothing (Jackets, vests, etc.)
- Safety footwear (Steel-toed boots, etc.)
- Face masks or shields
- Eye goggles
- Harnesses (for work at height)
- Respiratory equipment (Specific face masks, etc.)
Again, the PPE required can vary depending on the role your employee plays or the industry you operate within, so it’s important that you carry out your research ahead of time and ensure that you are ticking all of the right boxes.
We’re surrounded by hazards every single day, as they can be something as small as a trailing wire on the floor. As such, it’s crucial that you carry out regular inspections of your workplace, keeping an eye out for potential safety hazards. Once identified, you should then find a way to minimize the risk they present. For example, wires trailing on the floor can be resolved by rerouting the wires so they are affixed to the edges of the room or using cable managers.
While your risk assessments and safety documents may take a great time to curate and may be packed with as much detail and information as possible, this does not mean your work is done. You should regularly review your processes to identify any errors or ways in which they can be improved.
These documents should also be updated each time new equipment or machinery is introduced to the workplace, as the tools may present their own risk, which must be assessed and addressed. Furthermore, governing bodies are often updating health and safety regulations on both a local and regional level, and you must always ensure your procedures are up-to-date in this regard too.
As your business grows, the number of tasks you must carry out to uphold health and safety standards will increase. As such, it may be beneficial to hire a health and safety manager who can carry out this work on your behalf so that it does not accidentally fall to the bottom of your to-do list.
A health and safety manager can:
- Carry out regular risk assessments
- Ensure employee health and safety training is up-to-date
- Communicate new procedures with your team
- Implement new health and safety regulations and processes
- Attend relevant external events
- Pay attention to health and safety trends or changing guidelines
- Monitor procedures and suggest relevant changes
- Keep your team and customers safe
If you are unable to hire a health and safety manager, you may want to assign these duties to several people within your team. This way, they are able to share the workload, and you are ensuring that the duties are not disregarded or that the safety of your team is put at risk.
Carrying out regular safety drills is an excellent way to see whether or not your employee training is effective and if they have actually processed the information you have shared with them. As such, it’s advised that you carry out regular safety drills within your workplace. This could include:
- Fire drills
- Emergency evacuation drill
- Accident/First-Aid drill
This can be incredibly illuminating if you realize that your team is actually unsure of what to do in an emergency situation while also giving you a chance to do something about it.
For example, you may find that you need to offer more comprehensive training as a result of a failed drill. Alternatively, these routine tests can help you know that you are on the right track and making great ground when it comes to upholding health and safety standards within your business.
Without having the proper health and safety regulations in place, you are putting your business at risk in more ways than one. A lawsuit could not only harm you financially, but it could also irreparably damage your business’s reputation, hampering any further chances of success.
Beyond this, however, these procedures are important for the simple fact that they help to keep people safe – and this should be the driving factor between implementing and improving these processes.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of guidance out there that can be used to help entrepreneurs keep their employees and customers safe!