Estimated reading time: 6 mins
Safety in business is a very technical, and often costly, accountability business owners have to get right. It’s safe to say that most sensible business owners will never do anything that knowingly risks the safety of their employees, but current legislative changes mean that that isn’t necessarily the end of the battle.
Thanks in no small part to the unsafe working conditions that existed before these regulations came into place, many businesses will have to find themselves jumping through health and safety legislation that can be tough to get to grips with. While large companies might be able to manage to do this by employing someone specifically to examine their health and safety needs, small businesses – those with fewer than five employees – rarely have that luxury.
It’s not just health and safety you have to be concerned about. A workplace is rife for illness and contagion to spread; if your employees fall ill all at once, then it could decimate the output of a small business. Then there is the building maintenance to consider; the threats that can develop and lead to chronic, serious problems of health and hygiene.
Okay, so far and it’s all sounding a little bit “scare tactics” – but that’s honestly not the intention. The simple truth is that if you run a business and employ workers, then you have responsibilities to look after them. Of course that means that you have to ensure a safe working environment in that there’s nothing that’s going to fall on their head during the morning meeting, but as the above shows, there’s more to safety than the very basics. Falling foul of legislation designed to protect employees could mean that you’re liable for legal repercussions, and even prosecution. Not to mention the fact that few employees will want to work for a company that doesn’t put all aspects of their safety extremely high on the priority list.
So rather than see this as scare tactics, see it as an essential primer on the things you have to take care of. Only when you’re furnished with the information on what you have to do can you truly say your company is fit for business, so is there any chance you’re lacking in these areas?
Let’s start with an easy one: basic safety. This essentially means that you have to guarantee that the office or premises you operate in are safe for use by your workers. Think of this as the shell of the building; the real fundamentals.
So, the floors need to be level. There needs to be nothing that’s going to drop from the ceiling onto unsuspecting heads. The building needs to be well constructed.
Think this sounds obvious? Well of course it does – it’s not always the case. Sometimes, when a business is short of money, they run down their maintenance budget. Few people would lease a building that was in a terrible state, but to save money from a floundering business they might default on the maintenance of their existing one. It’s here the problems can really begin. So if you have premises, your maintenance is vital, not an optional expense.
There are various pieces of legislation about what a workplace should offer, but perhaps the most pertinent is this one:
The work site must be located within a 15-minute response time of a hospital, clinic or infirmary if the work site does not contain workplace hazards that could cause life threatening injuries.
The rules are even more stringent if you run a business that does contain hazards that could cause injury. Construction and other very physical industries need to be even closer to clinics.
The majority of new businesses in the modern era, however, are far more likely to be digital than industrial, so let’s stick with that. So did you know that your workplace has to be within a 15-minute response time of a hospital? How do you even measure that? How is that feasible when more and more businesses are sprawling beyond the traditional urban environment, in need of more space in a crowded world as detailed by thinkers50.com?
If you can’t guarantee that 15 minute response time – which most businesses would struggle with – then you have to have a member of staff qualified in emergency medicine, including CPR. That’s not to say you have to employ a health professional, but you do need an employee with a background and certification in these life-saving skills.
Who that person is is not particularly important. It can be you, if you would prefer to be in control of keeping your licence up to date – this is often the best choice so you can guarantee that all is as it should be. Or it can be an employee, but do ensure you do spot checks to make sure they are still enlisted to give CPR in emergency situations. Training for this is relatively simple; browse the likes of cprnearme.com to find a course, then your premises will have the cover they need for all eventualities.
If you want to be especially conscientious, there are arguments for all permanent staff to undergo this and other basic first aid training. If you go down this route, it guarantees there will always be someone on site who can handle any mishaps. It’s not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket – so to speak – and only have one person in your entire company who can handle these issues. If they’re out from work for a day, what’s going to happen if something occurs in their absence?
There are various ways you need to take account of illness in your business.
The most prevalent is based around the building you run your operation from. Some illnesses – such as Legionnaires’ Disease – absolutely flourish in poorly maintained buildings, so again, this is why maintenance is so absolutely vital for your business to succeed. It’s not just Legionnaires’ that is a concern, either; black mould can be incredibly toxic, and if your building is historic, there might even be asbestos concerns.
Aside from the building itself, you have to think about how illness spreads through offices. One person in the office can come down with a cold and, within days, everyone else will have had it. This is a real problem and sadly, it’s almost impossible to prevent.
The best strategy is to insist that anyone who displays active cold symptoms should work from home for the day. While this should limit some of the issue, people can have a cold and not be symptomatic in the early stages – yet still be infectious. There’s nothing much you can do here except encourage excellent workplace hygiene.
Finally, you will on occasion encounter an employee who has been advised to stay away from work due to fears they are contagious. This happens in cases of mono or strep throat; the medical advice is containment.
Of course, as a business owner, this is incredibly inconvenient. Employees have reported cases where their boss wants them to defy doctors orders and come back to work before the suggested quarantine period is complete. Don’t be one of those bosses. If you do, then you’re just going to have the inconvenience of the entire office going down with a nasty illness, when before it was just one person. Quarantines are issued for a reason, so defy them at your peril.
Keeping the above in mind as a mantra for your business will guarantee your success in the long run. So be safe out there, kids!