Operations Management

Workplace Safety

Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures

Even if you haven't received an inspection or safety audit, safety in the workplace is extremely important. Become proactive when it comes to workplace safety and avoid serious problems in the future.

Many small businesses have the luxury of flying beneath the radar of many inspection agencies.

Workplace Safety

OSHA and the FDA don't pay as much attention to starting businesses as you might expect.

Despite this initial phase, however, the rules and regulations these organizations provide are for everyone to follow, not just big businesses. Make sure your company is in line and following the standard operating procedures outlined by these and other organizations. Even though you are not being regularly inspected, if an accident should occur, it can cripple your company.

Any small business owner with a heart wants to provide a safe working environment for their employees. As your business grows and expands, however, it may be difficult to keep your eye on every aspect of your operation, especially if you are not on the front-lines on a daily basis. New equipment and facilities can bring about new safety issues and new employees need to be properly trained. Workplace safety needs to be an important issue in your business, because the costs of an accident can be astronomical.

I once worked for a company in the wholesale baking industry. They were a small growing company that was feeling the boom of expansion. New employees were hired, and new equipment was purchased. The company received minimal outside inspection and had never received a safety audit.

Prior to my arrival at the company, a minimum wage employee was rolling a rack of product from the freezer when the rack toppled onto her, breaking her hip. The freezer had a chunk of wood sticking up in the entrance, where the wheels of the rack had gotten stuck.

In addition to the well-being of the employee, the company received a serious hit. In addition to insurance rates almost tripling, the company faced a lawsuit and numerous outside inspections over the next few years. The insurance hikes alone, moved the company from turning a profit to breaking even.

With such high stakes, you want to be proactive with safety in your business. Don't wait for an injury or an outside inspection.

There are outside safety consultants that can help bring your company up to regulation, but this is a costly option. Each governing organization has books that can be ordered so you can understand what is required.

Ultimately, however, you want to empower your supervisors to take the proactive role in improving worker safety. Your supervisors will be aware of potential problem areas and with your support measures can be taken to improve safety around your workplace. Many of the solutions to the problems will be simple, adding a sign or a guard rail. Using the bakery example, the problem could have been avoided with a $5 piece of wood.

All small business owners want to keep their employees safe. As your business grows you need to be sure to remember how important workplace safety is. Empower your employees to take a proactive role in pointing out potential dangers. The costs of taking these measures are minuscule when compared to the costs of an accident or a failed inspection.

Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.

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