Are you this negligent about safety in your small business?

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Duct-tape Moving Van

A staffer at a high-profile women’s magazine posted a tweet saying that they had replaced the safety information sign in their office with something “much more important”.

I wondered what this “something much more important” could be and opened the photo attached to the tweet. A photo showed two women hanging up a mirror on a pillar in their office where the safety information sign had been located.

The comments from Twitter followers were in praise for the mirror becuase it could be “important” for checking for pieces of food stuck between teeth or excess lipstick and even “let me work for you”.

It may seem to be a light-hearted act but it says a lot about how safety is viewed in some workplaces.

The other day I heard about a driver who was standing next to a truck while deliveries were been made. The man was leaning his hand against the truck lift equipment while using his other hand to talk on his cellphone. An assistant switched on the truck lift without the driver knowing. Suddenly he had two fingers chopped off. I needn’t go into the gory details except to say that he was lucky that people from the business where he was delivering the goods rushed him to hospital, which was five minutes away.

Serious accidents like this can happen at any time. The risk of accidents increase in small businesses when there is no basic information, training and systems in place to manage health and safety.

What steps have you taken in your small business to make your workplace safer for your employees, customers and suppliers? Could you do more? Are you paying too little attention to health and safety?

In the course of gathering research and information for this blog, I visit many small businesses. I am surprised at how many don’t even have the basics in place. There is no safety information signs. A fire extinguisher may be present but not a first aid kit. Not even a headache tablet. Even fast-food chain stores that belong to international groups leave huge quantities of sticky mess on their floors without cleaning it up immediately and putting up yellow danger signs.

You may want to consider introducing a basic health and safety management system in your small business. You can start to create a sense of seriousness about health and safety by:

– Putting up warning signs notifying people of potentially risky situations.
– Ensuring electrical equipment is well-maintained (no exposed wires without installation, plugs earthed correctly).
– Making sure you have a fire extinguisher and first aid kit on hand (and someone who knows how to operate them)
— Preventing aisles and exits being blocked by bins, boxes and other equipment.
– Keeping work areas clean.
— Being aware of the risks of slippery floors and walkways, tripping hazards (piping and cables), poorly lighted stairs and using protective clothing and equipment when required. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve seen electrical extension cords lying across floors and not fastened with duct tape which people can easily trip over.

These are really some of the basics. You can talk to a health and safety practitioner who will tell you about how to introduce a health and safety system in your workplace. They will even help you draw up some workplace safety rules that you and your staff can all be aware of.

With training, effective communication, staff involvement and engagement and a system (even if it’s basic) for ensuring standards you can improve the health and safety of your small business workplace.

The mirror on the wall of that magazine editorial office reflects back what people there think about health and safety. Yet by looking into a mirror you will soon realise that safety starts with you. It’s up to you as a small business owner to look at yourself in the mirror and decide whether you are doing enough to keep yourself, employees, customers and suppliers safe.

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