We all know the saying, “Safety first.”
But when you’re working under pressure or managing a complex project, you need more than just a slogan to stay safe. All business owners need to build workplace safety programs into the core of their business practices.
Having a safe work environment isn’t just good for you and your team — it’s good business. Not only do serious injuries or safety problems slow down your job progress, but lawsuits can easily drain your business’ time and resources.
No matter what industry you’re in or how long you’ve been in business, ensuring your workplace is safe is always a worthwhile investment.
Here are some tips to help you through the process:
1. Understand workplace safety risks
If your workplace is unsafe, you, your employees, customers, suppliers or anyone else could get injured or even killed.
A small accident might mean you have to close your business temporarily. But if someone suffers a more serious accident, your business could have to close for weeks or months — even permanently.
Injuries can cost a fortune. According to the National Safety Council, the total cost of workplace injuries in 2020 was $163.9 billion — which includes wage and productivity losses, medical expenses and administrative expenses.
If you have unsafe working conditions, you can get sued or receive heavy penalties even if no one is hurt. In 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may fine businesses up to $14,502 per “serious” violation and up to $145,027 for every “willful or repeated” violation.
2. Know your responsibilities as an employer
Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health law, employers must "provide a safe workplace." U.S. health and safety standards apply to all businesses — and this goes beyond putting up posters.
The law also requires employers to examine job site conditions to make sure they meet OSHA standards, provide employees with safe and properly-maintained equipment, provide workplace safety training and more.
Many industries, including construction, electrical, auto repair, landscaping, cleaning, restaurants and beauty, must meet safety standards and regulations specific to their lines of work. Business owners are responsible for reviewing these rules and ensuring their workplaces comply.
It’s also an owner’s job to stay current with licenses, certifications and business insurance. These requirements can depend on your industry and location, so check your state government’s resources for more details.
3. Build a workplace safety culture
You can't control everything your employees or customers do, but you must create a safe environment for them.
As a business owner, you set the tone for your workplace. If you're too casual about safety procedures, workers may also disregard it.
However, workers will follow your example if you're proactive about workplace safety.
Building a safe work environment isn’t a one-time thing; it’s an ongoing practice that requires education and training. Employees in any workplace can follow these general safety rules:
- Verify licenses and insurance. Make sure all employees and contractors you work with have the necessary licenses and insurance before you hire them.
- Provide proper training. Always train new employees and workers on how to safely operate in your workspace, and make sure they understand relevant safety regulations. You may also consider sponsoring your employees to take additional certified safety courses.
- Hold regular safety meetings. Keep your team up-to-date on any new procedures or protocols, and take time to make the meetings interesting and accessible.
- Run preparedness drills. Practicing how to respond in case of weather events, equipment failures or injuries can make a big difference in a real emergency. Even simple procedures such as knowing where the first aid kits and fire extinguishers are can make a difference.
- Keep spaces clean and tidy. Clutter can be dangerous. Maintain an organized workplace with any hazards clearly labeled with signage, and emergency exits clear.
- Provide proper equipment. If your job requires safety equipment, provide the equipment to your employees. That includes personal protective equipment (PPE), tools, ladders and mechanical aids like forklifts. Inspect the equipment regularly and make sure it’s insured.
- Model safe behavior. When you’re at work, always wear appropriate safety gear, use good posture and make sure workers see you following safety guidelines.
- Don’t rush. Safety violations are more likely to occur when there’s time pressure. Encourage workers to take the necessary time, and never ask them to take shortcuts.
- Take regular breaks. A tired worker is a safety hazard for everyone. Make sure everyone has opportunities to rest after long periods of work, especially before completing critical tasks.
- Hydrate. Dehydration can make workers disoriented or suffer other symptoms. Make sure everyone has access to enough water, especially when work gets busy.
It’s also important to make sure your workplace has good communication so that workers can report unsafe conditions or potential hazards as soon as they notice them. The last thing you want is for workers to sweep safety risks under the rug; you could ultimately be held responsible.
4. Get covered with business insurance
So you've trained your employees and feel confident that you have a safe workplace. Unfortunately, workplace accidents can still happen.
This is why it’s so important to get general liability insurance, which helps protect you if you’re held responsible for an injury to someone other than your employees at your workplace or for property damage.
Workers’ compensation insurance can help cover the costs of medical expenses and lost wages if your employee is hurt on the job. In some states, workers’ comp can also cover you, the business owner.
Because different industries have risks specific to how they work, you can combine different kinds of insurance according to your needs.
How NEXT helps keep your workplace safe
NEXT is an insurance company that focuses on helping small business owners thrive, which is why we design our coverage around your needs.
You can view construction insurance options, get a quote and purchase a policy in less than 10 minutes. If you need more than one type of coverage, you’ll save up to 10% when you bundle policies together.
You’ll get access to your certificate of insurance as soon as you make a payment.
Get started with a free quote today.