No Liability Zone: Safety Basics to Keep Your Company Out of Hot Water

Bring Success factor to your Business

There’s so many things for small business owners to worry about, from the implementation of a great business plan to marketing that reaches thousands of people to hosting a web page that tells the world who you are and what you do. But there are safety issues that you need to think about as well.

With all of the responsibilities that small business owners have, it’s likely that you can overlook a few safety features in your brick-and- mortar store or office that can cause you to be liable in case of an accident. If an employee or customer hurts themselves at your business, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars if you haven’t taken the proper precautions. Here are some things to think about and to keep your company out of hot water.

Keep Good Records

One of the best things you can do to prove that you are compliant with all safety regulations and procedures is to keep good records for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This governmental agency establishes and assures the safe working conditions for employees and enforces those conditions through reviews and assistance.

Each year, OSHA requires many businesses to submit a form (the 300A) that reports on any work-related injuries throughout the previous year. While you only report those injuries that required more than simple first aid, it gives OSHA a good idea of your safety practices and procedures. It can also let you know of certain departments or areas of your building that are troublesome, especially if there were several similar injuries within a given year.

Not only will you stay compliant with OSHA, you will be able to use this knowledge to correct any problems and prevent further injuries in the future. You will also have proof of compliance should a lawsuit be brought against you.

Slips and Falls

Slips and falls account for 15% of all workplace injuries and are also some of the most common preventable accidents. These are classified as accidents in which a customer or employee falls on the business premises and can result in lawsuits very frequently: they are easy for lawyers to prosecute, so make sure to take all of the precautions you can.

If you have carpeting in your business, make sure that there are no seams that are sticking up to cause a trip hazard. Also, have a system in place for quickly cleaning up any spills or standing water that can cause employees or customers to slip. If you have stairs, make sure they are in repair at all times. Poor lighting can also contribute to falls, so replace all light bulbs as soon as they go out and, if your business has large windows, use that natural light to your advantage.

Other Hazards

While slips and falls are a major issue, there are other hazards throughout any workplace that can be cause for concern.

While uncommon, fires pose a major threat to the safety of all employees and customers. Avoid having flammable materials stored too closely together, as this can cause a small fire to burn out of control very quickly. Also, make sure to check your fire suppression systems on a regular basis. Fire extinguishers, sprinklers and corrosion systems should be checked at least once a year and replaced as soon as possible if broken.

You will be held liable if you knowingly failed to fix any structural problems around your building as well, so stay on top of things like cracked sidewalks and broken doors that could lead to injury. Get them taken care of as quickly as possible to avoid future problems.

Have a Plan

No matter how cautious you are, sometimes things just happen and you may be forced to evacuate your building. Make sure that you have an evacuation plan in place and that all of your employees know how to follow it by instinct.

While you may be required to post emergency evacuation plans throughout your building, you still need to make sure that your employees know where they are posted and what to do in case of an emergency. It may be beneficial to hold fire drills every so often to keep the evacuation plan fresh in their minds. You can also place certain people in charge of helping others out in case of an emergency so you will have leaders during the crisis.

Don’t find yourself in the middle of a libel lawsuit because you didn’t take the proper precautions!

Lewis Street is a business consultant who writes on a broad range of business topics for both startups and established businesses. Read his articles around the web.