How a small business can create a healthy and safe workplace environment

By Emma Williams

Small businesses are defined as those with fewer than 500 employees, and in fact, they represent 99.7 percent of businesses in the U.S. right now. A large bulk of this is actually small businesses with fewer than 100 or even fewer than 20 employees. These numbers suggest that there is no better time than now to try your hands at entrepreneurship and start your own small business – but what you should be aware of is that it’s not as easy as it seems if you want to do everything right.

While small businesses have fewer resources than big corporations, a healthy and safe workplace is still a priority, so the employer must do their part on this front. As the owner, you are responsible for all your employees, but even beyond that, you are also responsible for anyone who comes in contact with your business. Here are a few tips that will help you ensure that your employees feel safe and comfortable while working there.

Emergency procedures in place

Every workplace needs to have emergency procedures in place, but it’s not enough to have them on paper and call it a day. Your emergency procedures should be a result of a joint effort with your employees so everyone is familiar with them to the fullest. Consider periodically holding a presentation to review these procedures and make sure they’re always top of mind with employees.

In addition, making this plan once will not suffice. The plan needs to be updated regularly and everyone should be aware of the changes. For instance, it is possible that you had some renovation work done at the office recently that changes the exit route. In case of a fire or a natural disaster, this could be extremely important. So, make sure this plan is always up-to-date and displayed around the office in visible places.

Visible safety signs

Speaking of displaying the emergency procedures at visible places, you should also make sure all the safety signs are visible and unmissable. You should have the floor plans and evacuation routes hung up on the walls for everyone to see, and the exit signs should be properly illuminated so they are visible even in the dark.

Educating your employees

Safety training is another essential element of making sure the workplace is a safe and healthy environment. This is especially important if your employees are working with machinery or in high-risk conditions. They should all know when they should take sick days off in order not to endanger themselves and the other employees working in these conditions. It is also essential that employees know what to do, who to call and where to go in different situations, such as if a coworker is exhibiting worrying behavior or even just says worrying things. You will, of course, teach these things as a part of your safety training but you can also have a pamphlet containing all the protocols printed and handed out to all your employees so they can further study it at home.

Making sure the premises are safe

One of the key ways to avoid accidents is to make the premises a safer environment. First of all, it’s not expensive or difficult to make sure nothing is blocking the way or presenting a tripping hazard around the premises. This not only makes getting around much more hassle-free but it’s also a requirement in case of an emergency. Therefore, all the spaces should be well-lit and free of clutter – this will not only boost the safety but also the productivity of your workforce. It should also go without saying that you have to make sure the bathrooms are clean at all times and that any tiled areas (such as said bathrooms or even stairs or hallways) are secured with durable non slip tape to prevent falls and accidents.

Accessibility

You also need to take into account people with disabilities, be it your employee, a client or anyone else visiting your premises. This means your emergency exit routes should be accessible to those in a wheelchair as well. The same goes for the rest of your premises – too narrow spaces can be dangerous anyway, and no ramps beside stairs create a problem, too. Make sure you keep these things in mind from the get-go and organize your premises in a disabled-friendly manner.

Securing the premises

Besides the previous ways of making sure accidents are avoided in the workplace, you should go the extra mile to secure the place. By this, we mean security measures such as reliable locks, alarm systems and so on. It’s necessary to keep track of who enters your premises – you should have a system in place for identifying the person and recording their data. In addition, you should have security cameras installed in critical places. While your employees might not like this, in case something bad happens, the cameras can be of great use to the police.

Regular maintenance

When nothing seems to malfunction, it’s easy to forget about maintenance. However, to make sure everything continues working smoothly, you have to have regular maintenance, both when it comes to your equipment (especially machinery) and the building of your business itself. You should have inspections from time to time and fix what needs to be fixed to prevent further problems or the malfunctioning items causing dangerous situations.

Promoting health

As an employer, it is in your best interest that your employees are healthy and are given the opportunity to work in a comfortable environment that does not damage their well-being. So, the first step is implementing ergonomic furniture. Ergonomic chairs are the most important as they will prevent your employees from having back problems. However, it is also a well-known fact that sitting down too much is detrimental to one’s health. So, consider bringing in standing desks or adjustable desks to the office and allow employees to change their position throughout the day. There are other ways in which you can promote a healthy lifestyle at the workplace your employees will be thankful for. For instance, you can offer gym memberships (or even just discounts) which will make it more likely that they actually go and work out.

Taking care of their mental health too

Being mentally healthy is also part of one’s overall well-being. Being a small business, you will have an easier job achieving this, but it’s still essential that you make sure your employees are compatible with each other and that they form a close community where mutual support and respect thrive – that way, even in stressful situations, they will know there are people they can count on and it won’t be detrimental to their mental health. Make sure you show your staff how valued they are and they will be able to stay motivated. Open communication is the key – if you keep the lines of communication open, your employees won’t be scared to turn to you with their problems and you will be able to resolve them much easier.

Giving your employees breaks

This is also related to the previous topic we’ve discussed. To make sure your employees can relieve stress and won’t work while exhausted, give them regular breaks. Create a common room where employees can go to breathe some air away from their desks and unwind, chat a little and take their mind off work. This will not only help them focus on their task better when they return to it but it can also strengthen the bond between your employees, which further contributes to a healthy workplace environment.

Conclusion

A business must do everything in its power to create an optimal work environment that is safe and healthy for everyone working in it, regardless of whether it is a small business or a big company. Small businesses have it harder in some departments but they also have an advantage in others. Still, you need to do all the aforementioned things for your employees to thrive.

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Emma Williams is an Australian writer with a master‘s degree in business administration, who has a passion for anything lifestyle and design related. She spends most of her time redecorating and participating in house projects. As a great nature lover, her biggest pleasure is spending time in a small cottage by the river. https://twitter.com/EmmaWilliams204

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