Maintaining a safe working environment is one of a business owner’s biggest responsibilities. In fact, over one-third of business owners put it at the very top of the list of things they worry about.
But small businesses know all too well about how razor-thin profit margins are and the fight for survival, particularly in these COVID-19 times. There’s only so many resources available to you. Developing a small business safety budget requires preparation and planning.
Know the law
Workplace safety is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The regulations put out by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) put different requirements on small businesses than their larger corporate counterparts. OSHA regulations factor in issues like smaller workspaces and fewer staff members.
Make sure you know what’s required and then keep up-to-date because regulations frequently change. Your resources are scarce and you don’t want to use them in areas that might not be necessary.
Understand your risks
Your business is unique. Everything from the line of work you’re in to the structure of your office layout presents a combination of risks that no other business has. You need to conduct a safety audit and make a prudent assessment of where the risks are for your particular business.
Again, it’s all about making scarce resources stretch as far as possible. You can develop priorities for your unique situation and allocate your safety budget according to that plan.
Properly train employees
Getting your employees up to speed isn’t just about the mechanics of their job. Invest the time to do training that’s safety-specific. Now if your employees are electricians, that will come with the territory. The same goes for other types of physical labor. But there are other aspects of safety that may be more subtle and unique to your particular business.
Take a look at your office layout. Make sure employees know if there are dangerous turns—like a filing cabinet that could clip someone if they came around the corner at the wrong time. If you’re unable to move the filing cabinet, make sure everyone is aware they have to be careful in this space.
Most small business owners take protecting their employees seriously, but are faced with budget stress. Just remember that in addition to the humanitarian component of workplace safety, there are some concrete financial realities—the investment in safety will be less than any fines that may come from OSHA and any lost productivity that comes from missed work time. Safety measures are certainly less expensive than a debilitating lawsuit that follows a worker injury which could have been prevented.