For many small business owners, workplace safety can often be an afterthought. It’s not about neglect or bad intentions, but limited resources and tight budgets usually mean the implementation of safety policies gets pushed to the backburner. But with small businesses accounting for more than 95% of all Australians (approximately 4.8 million workers), developing a healthy safety culture in your workplace should always be a priority.
You don’t need be working in a high-risk industry to carry out safe working practices either. Small businesses – like any business – have a legal obligation to meet workplace safety requirements, regardless of what industry you’re in. Unfortunately though, many small business owners are unsure about how to go about protecting themselves – or their staff and business.
Nobody wants their employees or customers injured, or to have the financial stability of their hard work jeopardised. Implementing a workplace safety policy is the first step in protecting them (and yourself!). Never assume safety procedures are ‘common sense’. Setting clearly written guidelines ensures all staff are on the same page and encourages a positive and safer workplace for all. Whether you’re managing a handful of people or a small team of 20 people, here’s how you can set up a workplace safety policy for your business.
Why Have a Policy?
Small business owners are hardworking, motivated, passionate and committed. But the vast majority don’t have safety policies in place to protect their employees, and the business, from catastrophe. Health and safety are equally important for small businesses and a workplace policy is the best way to guide your staff in how to manage things in case of an emergency.
It’s also a great tool for showing your staff how committed you are to their health and safety concerns. People want to feel looked after in their place of work. Enforcing such policies gives your business a reputation of a safe and productive place to work at, which is super valuable for retaining staff and recruiting new ones. By putting a safety policy in place, you ensure everyone understands and complies, whilst helping to migrate any damage and risks.
What Should the Policy Include?
Putting together a workplace safety policy doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming. In fact, get your team together and make it fun (but effective!). This way, everyone can be involved in the process and familiarise themselves with any worries or risks.
The policy should meet any OHS requirements and comply with the industry standards. This means covering essential procedures like safety exits, first aid, fire safety, ventilation and any hazardous materials or risks. Assign responsibilities to staff – there must be someone qualified to perform first aid and act as a fire warden. Delegate an office health and safety champion to help keep things in check, and arrange any essential training or senior first aid courses for staff who are happy to take on the job.
Put it in Writing
Writing a health and safety policy puts your commitment on paper, and shows your employees and customers you take their safety seriously. For some countries, it’s also a legal requirement. Once the policy is in place, put it in writing for staff to refer to. This will be the document people can turn to for essential safety information to explain what should be done.
Have the Policy Handy
You newly drawn up policy should be easily accessible in the office. For your safety procedures to be effective, include clearly displayed fire escape signs and maps to assist staff and clients too. Create tailored safety checklists and booklets for workers so everyone has a copy. This is exceptionally important for anyone carrying out high-risk activities or who have put their hand up for being a fire warden and/or first aid officer, and protects the safety of your staff/clients and the reputation of your business.
Don’t Forget about New Employees
Your small business may be ‘small’ now, but growing ventures need to take future staff into consideration too. Make sure all new employees are taken through the policy with a property safety induction. Safety policies are only effective if all workers understand their responsibilities in the workplace. This includes emphasising the importance of safety with training, meetings and incentive programs to educate staff on how to identify, report and record hazards or injuries.
It doesn’t need to take much to implement a safety policy for your small business. And with one in place, it’s easier to ensure the right procedures are in place to control potential dangers. For even the smallest workplace, it’s your duty to be aware of the OHS responsibilities and create a safe environment for everyone involved.
Founder of Toward Music, Jayde is a scripturient with a consuming passion to write. With 12+ years experience as a freelance journalist, she’s also a dedicated writer in the business industry with an undying love for typewriters & street press.