The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation under the jurisdiction of WorkSafeBC requires that all small businesses have an occupational health and safety program. A workplace health and safety program is a process for managing the prevention of work-related injuries and diseases in the workplace. As a small business owner and employer you have a responsibility to your employees toward improving health and safety.
The scope of your health and safety program depends on the size of your business and the hazards at your particular workplace. Generally, a small business can state its health and safety policy and describe its program in a few pages. For sample Health and Safety plans, visit the WorksafeBC website.
The following seven steps focus on the basics of a less formal program for smaller businesses; these key steps to a safe work environment will be the basic components of your health and safety program.
Create a Plan for Improving Health and Safety
As an employer, you must identify hazards in your workplace and take steps to eliminate or minimize them. Develop a safety plan. Tell your employees what you will do to ensure their safety and what you expect from them. Make sure your employees have access to a first aid kit.
Hazards can include: a cleaner working with heavy duty cleaning products, a mechanic working with large machinery or a warehouse manager stacking heavy boxes.
Inspect Your Workplace
Regularly check all equipment and tools to ensure that they are well maintained and safe to use. Also check storage areas and review safe work procedures. Are boxes in your storage area stacked in a safe manner? Are your employees instructed how to lift heavy goods without injuring themselves? Do your employees know where the fire exit is and where they should gather if there is a fire?
Train Your Employees
Proper training is necessary for all employees, especially if there is a risk for potential injury associated with a job. Provide written instructions and safe work procedures so they can check for themselves if they are unsure of a task or have forgotten part of their training. Supervise your employees to ensure that they are using their training to perform their job properly and safely. By not providing the correct training for your employees you are not only endangering the safety of your employees but you will be held liable for the incident which could have serious consequences.
Keep an Open Dialogue
Meet regularly with your staff and discuss health and safety issues. Encourage them to share their ideas and thoughts on how to improve safety in the workplace. You might even consider providing first aid training for staff so they are prepared to deal with emergency situations.
Even if an incident does not result in a serious injury, conduct an incident investigation to help determine why an incident happened so you can take steps to ensure that it will not recur.
Keep records of all first aid treatment, inspections, incident investigations, and training activities. This information can help you identify trends in unsafe conditions or work procedures. You can find a Health and Safety Log Book on the WorkSafeBC website which includes easy-to-use checklists and blank forms.
Make Improving Health and Safety a Key Part of Business
Safety shouldn’t be an after-thought; it’s just as important to a successful business as customer service, inventory control, and financial planning. A commitment to health and safety makes good business sense because it’s the one way to protect your greatest resource — your people.
Find Out More
WorkSafe BC provides many publications and resources on workplace safety on their website, especially tailored to you the small business owner, including:
- Small Business Primer: A Guide to WorkSafeBC
- Small Business Health and Safety Log Book
- Small Business Safety Calculator
- Working Alone: A handbook for small business
- Small, Smart, and Safe: Basic Health and Safety in Small Business
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