This week’s guest post comes from Australia-based startup advisor Alexander Hunkin.
As an employer, it’s your duty to protect the people in your employ in any way you can. However, when it comes to the occupational hazard, exposure to potentially harmful materials and unsafe work practices, this is not only your moral and ethical duty but also a legal one. The news reports are filled with news and reports of unconscientous employers who were sued over an injury that happened on their premises ore a permanent health damage that a person received in their employ.
The thing about this is that things are never that black-and-white and not all of these employers deliberately endanger their staff members in order to cut some costs. In fact, when it comes to first-time entrepreneurs, it’s much more probable that a mistake of this kind comes from a lack of awareness or a lack of experience. With this in mind, here are several facts that new business owners should know about health and safety regulation in order to avoid allowing this to become a problem.
1. Start with a safety statement
While it is true that some industries have a greater risk of injury than others, you need to keep in mind that no space is 100 percent safe. Construction sites can go months and years without an injury, while a fatal accident can happen even in the safest of offices. This is something that no employer, no matter how intelligent, mindful or experienced can predict. What you can do, however, is pinpoint some of the most probable causes of injury, especially those that are a direct result of your company’s core tasks and make a safety policy statement.
Here, you need to describe the safe work process, which includes the equipment use and a manual for handling harmful or delicate materials. This is quite tricky, seeing as how you need to make your safety policy in agreement with local safety regulations, however, it’s usually better to do more than to do less. If you notice a looming disaster in something that’s not mentioned in the regional safety law, you still might want to make a mention of it in the statement. In this way, you’re going that extra mile to legally protect your business and physically protect your employees.
2. Get everyone involved
So far, we mostly discussed new business owners, yet, even the most experienced of supervisors might have a hard time predicting every potential problem. This is why you need more hands on deck. By this, we mean that you should implement a near miss system as soon as possible. In this way, you’ll reward (even if the reward is not material) your employees for noticing a potential problem and making a mention of it. By including this practice in your business system, you’ll also encourage them to make these reports formal and pass them through adequate channels. Finally, the fact that some of these suggestions came from their colleagues might make these safety tips easier to remember.
3. Immediate response
Perhaps one of the most important things about health and safety in the workplace is the ability to respond in time and in the most adequate of manners. As we already said, preventing any potential injury is something that’s beyond you, nonetheless, what you do when the injury occurs is something that you alone can control. The first priority needs to be the safety of the injured party. Failure to do so will be considered as a major mistake by any legal system in the world. Therefore, you need to ensure that the person in question receives an adequate medical aid as soon as possible.
From the legal standpoint, this may additionally complicate things, seeing as how there are some cases of medical malpractice that may slip by you in all of this commotion. In turn, an injury that was inflicted or just got worst as the result of a medical negligence and malpractice may later be interpreted as your own fault. The safest way to handle this issue is with a help of a skilled and experienced medical negligence solicitor.
The most important thing to note here is that you’re not just acting out of your own interest but also in order to protect your employee. This malpractice can result in devastating effects that may forever alter the lifestyle quality of the injured party, as well as their ability to work. Your response, in this situation, can, therefore, make a major difference.
4. Making a checklist
Seeing as how the above-listed may be too much information to be tackled at once, here’s a brief checklist that we hope might be of some assistance. First of all, you need to ensure you include the safest practices and hazards to your statement and pass on this knowledge to your employees. Second, you need to be specific and relate information in the simplest and the most direct manner. In this way, you can avoid accusations of being vague or ambiguous. Third, you need to provide your employees with safety training but also test them in order to see their competence to deal with the problematic situation in question.
Lastly, you need to ensure that your employees have all they need in order to adhere to these safety rules. The fact that they know how to use safety equipment is irrelevant if the safety equipment isn’t where it’s supposed to be or if it’s expiration date is already over. As you can see, there’s so much on your plate that you simply have to start thinking about lists.
Most importantly, you need to understand that there’s a difference between planning and execution. Even the person who has taken the evacuation route dozens of times during the drill, may panic and misbehave in a moment of crisis. Moreover, the person in charge of safety may excel on every single test, only to fail miserably once they need to apply this in practice. This is why you can’t afford to be 100 percent sure in your system. Always test, always improve and always, always be ready to adapt. Only in this way will you provide your employees with the protection they deserve.
Alexander Hunkin is an Australian based startup advisor with in-depth experience in growing business. His meaningful and strategic advice has helped in setting and growing many startup companies in Brisbane and Perth. Alexander is also a content creator for different niches. The top ones are business, career, finance and marketing. He aspires to share his experiences and is always on the lookout for the next opportunity to enhance his skills. When he isn’t busy working, you can find him cooking exotic meals, scuba diving and cycling.