5 Ways to Get Serious About Safety

An unsafe workplace is not an option for your business. Here's what you need to know to protect your employees.
Freelance Content Marketing Writer and Strategist, Freelance Writer for National Brands including IBM, Ameriprise, Adobe, Samsung and Hewlett Packard
June 28, 2012

Workers from Moon Valley Pest Control in Sonoma, Calif. were eliminating wasps from a customer’s third-floor terracotta roof when one of the workers slipped and fell off the roof. Because the technicians were using OSHA-required equipment and were tied off correctly, the worker only fell a short distance. And thanks to the company's rigorous employee training, the technician walked away unscathed instead of suffering a serious injury, or even death.

Safety Is a Responsibility

Workplace safety is an important issue for all small-business owners. When accidents result from not following safety regulations and procedures, companies can face liability lawsuits and steep fines. That's not to mention lost productivity and increased worker's compensation costs. But more important, every small-business owner has a moral and ethical obligation to create a safe environment for his or her employees.

A May 2012 survey conducted by Staples found that 70 percent of companies have an emergency communication plan, but almost half of employees surveyed say that are not aware of it. Similarly, half of workers reported that safety drills at their workplace are either infrequent or non-existent. And sadly, the survey also revealed that the majority of non-managers couldn’t locate safety supplies, such as defibrillators, eyewash and dust masks. Patricia Kagerer, vice president of risk and safety management for C.F. Jordan Construction in Dallas says that safety and profitability are intimately linked.

“By embracing safety as part of the overall strategic plan of the organization, a company can be more competitive and save money,” she says.

Getting Educated

Your first stop to learn about workplace safety regulations for your industry should be the Occupational Health & Safety Administration website. You should also be in compliance with safety regulations from any licensing or regulatory agencies for your industry. Be sure to check your state-specific rules for areas such elevators, fire codes and building codes. Food and beverage businesses should also investigate county regulations for health inspections and specific safety regulations you must follow.

Here are some addition tips to make sure your have a safe workplace.

Post signs. An area that many businesses overlook is OSHA signage requirements. Check carefully to see where you need safety signs. Signage must conform to rules for color size and language, such as and yellow with black letters for caution. Many situations require a specific emblem to be on the sign, such as biological hazard symbol. Signs must also have rounded corners and be fastened safely to the wall.

Get all employees on the same page. Safety training should be integrated into your daily routine and not something that happens a few times a year. Conduct training sessions on routine procedures and emergency procedures, including having demonstrations by fire and emergency management professionals. Consider holding weekly safety meetings (or even daily in high risk industries) to address concerns and review safety procedures, such as showing employees proper ways to lift heavy equipment. Kagerer says that she holds safety sessions at building sites instead of dragging workers into a classroom after a long day in the field.

Know the drill. Brainstorm what emergencies may arise in your facility and plan regular drills for these situations. In addition to surprise fire drills, consider having planned drills for extreme situations, such as an explosion or medical emergencies. You should also have employees practice for simple accidents, such as falls from ladders or injuries from lifting.

Measure safety results. By keeping detailed records of any accidents or issues with employees not following safety procedures, you can focus your training or modify your procedures. “To achieve management commitment and employee involvement a safety process must show its impact," Kagerer says. Post the number of days since an accident in a prominent location to raise staff awareness.

Offer safety prizes. Hyland says that his company rewards employees with gift cards to restaurants and stores when a team goes a month without an accident. Other incentives include bonus vacation time for attending additional safety classes or hosting an office event when goals are met.

As you address workplace safety, make an effort to integrate it into the culture of the company. And most importantly, make sure that your employees see you putting safety at priority in all of your actions. By being a good example, your employees will be more likely to follow.

Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs via Contently.com

Photo credit: Thinkstock