In a typical office setting, unsafe work conditions and hazards may not seem apparent at first glance. But it’s not just high-risk industries like construction and manufacturing that boast potential Workers’ Compensation Insurance claims.
Fortunately, knowledgeable safety experts are here to offer advice. Check out these five ways to break small-business habits that put your employees at risk.
Bad Safety Habit #1: Working Around the Clock
When your business is just starting out with a small team, there can be a lot of pressure on each employee to give 150 percent. You might encourage – or even demand – workers put in extra hours and take fewer breaks.
That type of work mentality will impact your employees’ health, focus, and overall wellness. A worker stuck in front of a computer screen could be at risk for repetitive motion injuries, back problems, or eyestrain.
Play It Safe: Establish regular working hours and stick to them. Employees who are adequately rested may make fewer mistakes, which can reduce your exposure to a Professional Liability Insurance claim.
Use ergonomic furniture and equipment to reduce work-related employee injuries, which can help keep your small business Workers’ Comp costs low.
Bad Safety Habit #2: Lack of Personal Protective Equipment
In a hands-on, high-risk industry, personal protective equipment (PPE) can be the difference between a close call and a workplace tragedy.
Unfortunately, Jim Stanley, president of FDRsafety (@FDRsafety) and former deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, sees a lack of appropriate PPE usage.
Depending on the industry, Stanley says PPE may include…
- Hard hats.
- Safety glasses.
- Hearing protection.
- Protective footwear.
- Protective clothing.
- Flame-resistant clothing.
Without proper PPE, employees can be exposed to dangerous situations and potential injury.
Play It Safe: Supply or specify the type of PPE required for all employees to ensure a safe working environment. Stanley says accountability and working safely are just as important as training.
“Workers also need to be motivated to want to work safely rather than merely feeling that they have to,” Stanley says. “Motivated workers act safely.”
Bad Safety Habit #3: A Cluttered, Cramped, Chaotic Work Environment
As your team grows, your business may experience growing pains. And if you don't have enough room for each new employee, the workplace can get cluttered and cramped quickly.
For example, multiple workstations may mean tangled electrical cords, which are ripe for trip-and-fall accidents or electrical hazards. And who wants to be close enough to rub elbows with a coworker or have a cubicle neighbor sneeze right in their face?
Play It Safe: Small-business owners should keep the office organized and free of common hazards. Clear obstructed walkways and clean up unattended spills to reduce employee injuries.
Bad Safety Habit #4: Skipping Safety Training
Safety rules and training aren’t just encouraged – they're sometimes required.
John Braun, Certified Safety Professional (CSP), Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST), and co-owner of Signature Safety (@SignatureSafety), says hazards can vary greatly from industry to industry. You need to know if your business falls under OSHA jurisdiction or another regulatory entity.
Some training is mandated. For example, forklift operators must be trained every three years, explains Abby Ferri (@abbyferri), Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and CEO of The Ferri Group(@theferrigroup).
“If an employee is trained at the time of hire and the company buys a new type of forklift the following year, that employee must receive training again,” Ferri says. “It is important to review and evaluate the effectiveness of training that has been provided.”
Play It Safe: The safety standards regulating each business will vary. Braun recommends considering these questions:
- Do you have any chemicals in your workplace? If so, your employees need to be trained at hire and at least annually thereafter on hazard communication.
- Do you have maintenance personnel? These employees will most likely need to be trained on lockout / tagout procedures.
- Are there mandatory (i.e., industry-required) or voluntary (e.g., first aid, CPR, AED, etc.) certifications? Certifications need to be kept up to date.
Your safety program should be reviewed at least annually and revised as needed to ensure it's effective, Braun says. If you have potentially unsafe conditions, they should be observed more frequently.
Bad Safety Habit #5: No Safety Plan in Place
Ferri says many unsafe acts and conditions she has observed at small-business sites are related to a lack of planning.
“A plan doesn't need to be something that's agonized over for weeks – a simple pre-shift 'huddle' to discuss the tasks of the day, the equipment and tools to be used, and the personnel involved can go a long way,” Ferri says. “Simple communication can prevent injuries.”
Play It Safe: When it comes to workplace safety, it’s all hands on deck.
Ferri recommends asking employees to report unsafe conditions so their managers can fix the conditions immediately and develop a prevention plan so it doesn't happen again.
“Safety is not rocket science!” she says. “The foundation of a good safety program is continuous identification of hazards.”