A gas leak in a new format takeaway and restaurant business took not more than 30 seconds to shut the business down. Perhaps for good. Who knows whether the entrepreneur who started this vegetarian eatery will be able to restart the business after his physical and emotional scars.
The small business start-up began apart a year ago. The food was delicious because the entrepreneur and owner had worked both in this country and Australia honing his culinary skills in vegetarian cooking. The business was thriving until the gas fire snuffed it out in a matter of seconds.
The damage was catastrophic. Apart from the excruciating physical burns, the inside of the shop was burnt to a char. A blackened shell of a store was all that was left.
It doesn’t matter how skilled you are in business, how much entrepreneurial flair or passion you have, if your business is not safe or your practices and processes are not done with the utmost regard for health and safety, all your efforts to run a successful business could come to naught. I saw how this business burnt down with my own eyes. I heard the agonising groans and moans of the owner and his partner suffering terrible burns to their flesh. Like never before, I realised that without proper health and safety practices, you are putting your business at grave risk. And your livelihood. And your future.
Let me say it as clearly as I can: small and medium-sized business safety and health standards in this country are shockingly inadequate. Don’t count on others to help you because their knowledge is even less. Even people and officials who you would expect to know how to handle an accident show shocking ignorance.
Your small business or start up could be one step away from a disaster. What are you doing about it or going to do about it?
The first step is to sensitise yourself and your staff to the strengths and weaknesses of your startup’s or small business’ safety and health programme. If your small business is presently doing little in terms of health and safety management, the quickest thing you can do is to identify the areas where you are most vulnerable and then focus your efforts in these areas. Look for the critical 20% of changes needed that can bring about 80% general improvement in your safety and health management. Use all the free professional and health advice and assistance you can get and when necessary hire a safety and health consultant to provide recommendations. To prevent accidents and other incidents occurring in your business, do the following
– Set up an Occupational Health & Safety program
– Identify hazards and control risks
– Provide safe work procedures
– Educate and train staff
– Conduct regular safety inspections
– Control the use of hazardous materials
– Investigate accidents and other incidents
– Provide adequate first aid
– Keep records and statistics
– Hold regular health and safety meetings with your staff
Don’t classify your workplace as a “low risk” environment until you have done a proper risk assessment. Many of the risks such as electricity and gas are invisible. Doing a risk assessment and putting in place a health and safety plan can save your livelihood and that of your staff and even possibly your customers.
Health and safety risks are the most critical in your small business but there are others that you need to know about especially when starting a small business from scratch.
If you want to deal head-on with the potential risks in a start-up, go here.