Small Businesses Failing With Health & Safety: Is Yours?

The importance of HSE in your business

Be honest - how much time do you spend on health and safety matters for your small business? It can be tough for owners of small businesses to find the time to put a robust health and safety policy into action, which might explain why so many are not meeting the right standards. But the simple truth is that it leaves you open to a boatload of problems - not least huge fines from the authorities.

With this in mind, I thought I would take a look at some of the areas of your business that might need a little work. Don’t forget, a healthy, safe workplace saves you money in the long-term, helps you keep skilled employees longer, and keeps you onside with the law and industry regulations. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things you need to consider.

The financial risk

There’s a good reason why small business owners need to take health and safety seriously - even if they have no regard for human life. Failure to comply with the regulations can lead to severe fines, which vary according to your business classifications. The fines can be enormous - eventually costing you millions of dollars even if you are only a small operation. And those are just the fines - you have to remember that you could also face a compensation claim from an aggrieved party. Needless to say, getting caught while not adhering to the rules could well put you out of business. While larger businesses have the finances to suck up a significant hit, even a small company with a strong trading foundation could end up by the wayside.

The effect on your employees

If you don’t take health and safety seriously, you run the risk of damaging the health of your employees. Accidents are more likely to happen unless you have strict rules in place - and enforce them. Training must take place on a regular basis so that employees understand how to do their jobs safely. Even a failure to clean or maintain equipment properly can lead to significant exposure to health risks for your staff. It’s also important to understand that people know when they are working in an unsafe or unhealthy environment. And the next job offer they get from somewhere that offers them the security they crave will be taken - make no mistake about it. If you want to keep your best employees and build a fantastic team, health and safety is one of the areas in which you must place a large focus.

The devastation

As everyone knows, accidents happen, but it’s how you deal with them that counts. It could be the difference between your business surviving a major disaster or going out of business forever. The effects of a flood, fire, explosion or any other major disaster can be devastating - and you have to be prepared for the worst. Let’s take a fire as the perfect example. First of all, you need your employees to understand what they need to do in the event of fire - those weekly alarm tests and monthly drills will pay off and keep people safe. You will also need to ensure you have working extinguishers and specialist equipment where necessary. This in itself involves a lot of work that you may need to delegate. For instance, there is an enormous amount of work involved in setting up and maintaining a sprinkler system, from the intricate plumbing to installing a nitrogen generator system. You could spend the time to learn about it from Engineered Corrosion Solutions, but the reality is that setting up a specialised health and safety or maintenance role within your company is the better bet.

The impatience issue

Many accidents come from impatience on the job. Let’s say you are a small TV aerial or satellite dish installer. You and your team will be up and down roofs every hour of the day, and when you are short on time, there is a temptation to cut corners. It might be as little as not securing your ladders properly, but the effects can be devastating. It’s also important to understand that you need to allow your employees time to do their jobs safely. If you pressure them to finish the job as fast as possible, they will be more likely to start cutting corners. If they have an accident, it could end up being your fault - which will lead to severe financial consequences.

The sole trader

As a sole trader or one-person business, you might feel that you don’t have to take health and safety seriously. But, you would be wrong. You have responsibilities just like any other company, and if someone is injured on your property while there for business reasons, you can expect to pay the consequences. Yes, you might find it odd to create a health and safety plan when you work from home on your own every day. But it gives you protection, and the reality is that you will regret not spending the time doing so at some point in the future.

The business implications

We’ve already highlighted the cost of fines for companies who fail to take health and safety seriously. There are other business effects to consider, too. First of all, your reputation can take a significant hit. It can take years to repair the damage caused by garnering a reputation for not taking care of its staff. You will also struggle to fill positions with quality talent, as skilled people are more likely to work for a company where they feel safe and healthy. And, failing to look after your staff means you can expect to lose a lot of money from absence and presenteeism. Workplace accidents and illness cost American companies $250 billion in 2013 alone. If you don’t want to contribute even more to that figure, start addressing your health and safety plan today. It’s one of those things that you may not ever need. But when the day comes, you will be glad you have taken the time and given yourself the best possible protection from disaster and a failing business.

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