David Rodeck

Securing Your Business Series, Part 3: Your Employees

It can be a dangerous world out there for a small business without a plan for keeping your business secure. Earlier parts of this series covered how to protect against cybercrime and threats to your physical workplace. Now, it’s time to discuss protecting your most valuable asset: your employees.

This article will explain what a safe work environment entails, as well as how to create one within your business.

What Does Employee Safety Involve?

Creating a safe work environment for employees requires covering all your bases. The clearest place to start is with physical hazards in the workplace: Exposed wires, unsecured machines and areas where an employee could fall all raise the risk of injury. Employees should also have the proper safety equipment and uniforms.

Those safety measures must be coupled with training. You can make all the moves to create a secure workplace, but if employees engage in risky behavior or fail to use the proper safeguards, your other efforts may be ineffective.

The Importance of a Mentally Safe Space

When employers think of creating a safe work culture, they tend to focus on physical dangers. But you shouldn’t overlook your employees’ mental health.

If employees don’t feel heard or are scared to speak their minds, they may not report safety concerns until after someone gets hurt. When employees feel too stressed, they could also think they need to rush their tasks, skip breaks or show up while sick. These behaviors increase the chances that an employee will injure themselves or develop health problems on the job — meaning they’ll file a claim against your insurance.

Though they’re less dramatic than a big spill, consider the day-to-day effects of employees’ poor mental health as well. A poor work culture can disrupt your staff’s concentration. Employees who reported being stressed at work in a 2018 study were 19% less productive than their more relaxed colleagues.

The Benefits of Creating a Safe Workplace

Improving workplace safety is essential for your employees — but your bottom line will also benefit.

If employees get sick or injured while at work, they could file a workers’ compensation claim, which can raise your premiums and other costs associated with your health insurance plan. In the case that the injury resulted from a preventable workplace hazard, you may also face a lawsuit and a government fine through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Preventing safety issues now saves money later.

There’s another, less quantifiable perk. Your employees work hard to make your business successful, and they appreciate knowing that you put work into their success as well. Show that you care about their well-being, and they’ll reward you with loyalty toward the business.

Steps to Improving Workplace Safety

So, how can you create a safe work environment for your employees?

  • Regularly inspect for hazards. Monitor your workplace for potential dangers. OSHA created a self-inspection checklist that can guide your review.
  • Keep your workplace clean. A untidy workplace can be dangerous. Have employees clean spills on the floor, clutter in the hallway and overstocked shelves as they notice them so harmful clutter doesn’t collect.
  • Invest in the proper safety equipment. Safety equipment is a small investment to prevent serious and costly injuries. Ensure employees always have the proper safety equipment for dangerous work.
  • Consider what other upgrades you can make. When was the last time you replaced your office chairs? Since back, spine, knee and other musculoskeletal injuries are the second leading cause of short-term disability claims, new ergonomic chairs can pay for themselves many times over.
  • Train employees about safety. Are your employees up to date on your safety protocols? Explain the guidelines in new employee training, and hold a training review at least once a year.
  • Hold workplace safety discussions. Outside of training, schedule employee meetings to discuss potential hazards. If someone has been injured at work, you can review what happened during these meetings and explain how you’ll prevent the same accident from happening again.
  • Encourage employees to speak up. Your employees should feel confident that if they report workplace safety concerns, the company will take the issue seriously. This extends to mental health issues, such as employee/manager conflict or unreasonable delivery expectations. Allow employees to leave feedback anonymously as well.
  • Offer regular breaks, time off and sick leave. If your employees are exhausted or pushing through an illness, there’s a greater chance they’ll make a mistake that leads to a serious injury. They won’t be delivering their best, even if they’re working more hours. Make sure employees are allowed regular breaks and that they receive time off and sick leave as part of their benefits.
  • Provide mental health support through your benefits. On top of health insurance, consider adding extra mental health support for your employees, such as an employee assistance program or additional counseling services.

Your employees should be focused on their work while on the job — not on their safety. Though it’s impossible to guarantee your employees’ safety, you can feel confident that these steps help create a secure workplace for everyone.

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