By Sheila Ferguson

Being a member of a third-generation family of entrepreneurs has given me perspective on the importance of safety in running a small business enterprise. Helping today’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs integrate safety practices can help save their facilities, inventory, and intellectual property as well as keep their staff and customers safe.

In 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) logged 33,393 inspections and 42,063 State Plan inspections (via U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Sadly, there were 5,333 workers fatalities in 2019—or about fifteen deaths every day. Safety in the workplace is important to consider. OSHA’s partnerships with the community, employers, unions, and safety and health professionals have positively impacted workplace safety over the last half-century. OSHA also reports that worker injuries and illnesses were down-from 10.9 incidents per one hundred workers in 1972 to 2.8 per 100 in 2019.

Risk & The Small Business

It is easy for small businesses to avoid health and safety training as unnecessary expenses when you are just starting out or only have a few employees, but safety rules and standards change from year to year. As the business shifts and grows, it will need to provide updated safety information and protocols to protect its employees and the company.

All small businesses have some element of risk. Even if workers are not in hazardous conditions, they can still be affected by faulty electrical wiring, a poorly installed lighting fixture, a scaffolding collapse, or a slip and fall accident. Even administrative workers seated at a computer desk are prone to the ergonomic design of their workstations and the potential of trips and falls from a tangle of wires or a file drawer left open. Something as small as a cleaning product can prompt an allergic reaction or skin irritation and become an OSHA hazardous substance concern. According to OSHA (2021), the top ten areas of workplace safety violations include:

  • Fall Protection
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Ladders, construction
  • Hazard Communication
  • Scaffolding
  • Fall Protection Training
  • Control of Hazardous Energy
  • Eye and Face Protection
  • Powered Industrial Trucks
  • Machinery and Machine Guarding
  • Safety on the Work Premises

Safety in the workplace is everybody’s business. Workplace accidents and emergencies happen every day. OSHA is a small agency; with approximately 1,850 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers employed at more than eight million worksites around the nation. This translates to about one compliance officer for every 70,000 American workers. Across the country, OSHA has ten regional offices and eighty-five local area offices. Overall attention to safety can improve a small business enterprise as well as working conditions for employees.

A Boost in Productivity

Like good human relations, worker safety goes a long way in boosting morale and helping employees feel appreciated. They will generally also be more productive. Safety training helps keep your employees safe and shows that you care about their wellbeing. Employees who can safely go about their jobs are likely to get more done in less time. Health and safety training does matter for small businesses. All employees matter, but the smaller your business the more likely you will feel the pinch when a team member is absent. Though workers’ compensation claims may seem like the most detrimental outcome of an incident, the loss of team confidence and morale can damage a business even more. Safety training can be held as an all-day or half-day workshop, or as bulleted informational highlights presented at regular staff meetings. It does not need to be expensive or extravagant. Training saves small businesses money, creates more productive employees, and helps ensure you comply with OSHA regulations.

Prevents Worker’s Compensation Claims

Your workplace is a vital asset to your team. Every small business should have a health and safety training plan to protect themselves from expensive workers’ compensation claims. Putting Health and Safety Training in place can help to keep your employees safe. Without it, you could face a hefty workers’ compensation claim to force you to close your doors. Protect your company from expensive lawsuits by implementing the safety training your employees need to perform their jobs efficiently and safely.

Fosters OSHA compliance

OSHA’s number one requirement is that all businesses have safe workplaces. The work of safety starts with 1) educating employees about safety and hazards, regardless of your company’s size, 2) labeling cleaning products to alert employees to their dangers, 3) using safety signage to indicate danger when mopping, closing, or painting; and 4) creating a safety manual detailing policies and procedures specific to your business. Remember that when you put safety at the forefront,  you, your employees, and your customers are better protected. Being proactive about safety will also show OSHA that you are committed to fostering a safe work environment.

Save Your Money

Even if you have never had an accident at your workplace, developing a safety training program is still essential. It is well documented that safety training can save companies money overall. Finally, it prevents paid time off, traumatic experiences, hospital bills, and even higher insurance costs.




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