Starting a small business is a huge undertaking. Not only do you have to worry about start-up capital, acquiring adequate space, creating a viable business model, and recruiting reliable employees, once the company is up and running, you also have to deal with the safety of your employees, customers, and clients. Although certain lines of work pose inherent workplace hazards, small business owners in every industry should take precautions to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries.
Drafting a thorough employment manual is a great place to start in an effort to create a safe working environment. Research suggests that careful planning can drastically reduce the incidence of workplace accidents. Therefore, before you launch your next business venture, consider these common injuries and the various ways a safety manual can help you address them.
1. Vehicle Accidents
If any employees drive during working hours for company business, or if any employees use company cars, a very specific policy concerning the operation of motor vehicles is imperative. First, prudent employers should scrutinize job applicantsâ driving records before entrusting them with access to company vehicles. Company car policies should also emphasize the dangers of using cell phones and texting behind the wheel.
In addition, an effective safety manual will clearly outline the protocol for dealing with any sort of vehicle accident. That protocol should involve calling 911, gathering information from other individuals at the scene of the accident, and notifying the appropriate members of company management immediately after the accident occurs.
2. Workplace Violence
Employee-on-employee violence accounts for a staggering number of serious workplace injuries. Therefore, the employee manual for any reputable small business must stress the companyâs zero tolerance policy on workplace violence. To prevent on-the-job physical altercations, some companies implement dispute resolution procedures. Under such policies, employees who are not getting along can try to settle their differences with the assistance of an impartial mediator. Safety manuals should also require staff members report incidents of violence or suspicious circumstances that suggest a dispute may be brewing.
3. Injuries from Overexertion
Itâs no surprise that employees charged with regular heavy lifting are prone to various physical ailments, often focused on the lower back. However, even sedentary office workers can suffer injuries from overexerting themselves if they lift, carry, or pull an object in an unsafe manner. Because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not outlined definitive restrictions on the maximum weight an employee can safely lift, small businesses should encourage their employees to use good judgment when faced with moving items in the workplace. Companies should also have tools, such as hand trucks or dollies, on-site to aid the staff in moving heavy objects.
Safety manuals typically require employees who strain a muscle at work to immediately report the incident to a supervisor. Thereafter, management should assess the situation and direct the employee to consult medical attention if appropriate. Permitting injured employees to continue working only risks exacerbating the situation.
4. Repetitive Motion Disorders
When an employee repeats the same motions daily, whether it be typing at a computer or grabbing items on an assembly line, they are at risk for repetitive motion injuries such as tendonitis, bursitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. A good safety manual will require these at-risk employees to take adequate breaks to give their muscles time to rest periodically throughout the day.
5. Slip and Fall Accidents
Accidents involving falling, slipping and tripping are a part of life. They happen everywhere, so creating a fall-free workplace would likely be a fruitless effort. However, taking precautions to reduce the incidence of injuries resulting from such accidents is a viable and important goal. Company safety policies include a hazard assessment process to identify loose cords, footing and poorly lit areas and take steps to correct them. Wet floors and untethered cords or wires, for example, deserve immediate attention, and employees must be encouraged to report unsafe conditions to manaegment.
6. Machine Related Injuries
Use of industrial machinery has led to some of the most gruesome and deadly workplace injuries around the globe. Therefore, companies must provide extensive formal training to employees before allowing them to operate dangerous equipment. If you use machinery requiring specialized training, include in the manual that employees without documented training are not allowed to operate it.
Safety-related education in this context should emphasize the importance of refraining from wearing loose closing and jewelry while operating machinery. Similarly, hair must always be restrained. Those items can easily get caught in the machinery, which often leads to devastating injuries.
A company safety manual is not only a legal requirement to provide to employees, itâs a tool for a business owner to understand the risks and potential hazards they might encounter on the job. By considering these early in the process of setting up your company, some hazards can even be mitigated. Do the best for your business. Keep it safe.