Governmental and Private-Sector Safety Guides Targeted to Small Businesses

By Roy Maurer Sep 13, 2012
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Small-business owners confused about regulations, training materials and recommendations on workplac​e safety and emergency preparedness are the focus of recent governmental and private-sector efforts to provide helpful resources.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released The Small Business Safety and Health Resource Guide to help employers “navigate the maze of occupational safety and health information,” according to the agency.

The NIOSH guide is aimed at the 70 percent of workplaces that employ fewer than 20 people. These companies typically see higher fatality rates than larger organizations, NIOSH said.

“Worksite safety and health is often delegated to the human resources director or other staff who have additional job duties,” NIOSH said. “This may create a barrier for small businesses trying to sift through technical safety and health documents to understand what information is critical for them to know.”

The guide includes summaries of and links to more than 50 websites that have been reviewed for relevance, ease of use, cost and credibility, according to NIOSH. The resources include training guides, toolkits, compliance assistance publications, regulatory indices, consultation service information and emergency response instructions.

Disaster Preparedness for Small Businesses

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses represent more than 99 percent of all employers. Unfortunately, small to midsize businesses are also the most vulnerable in the event of an emergency. An Ad Council survey reported that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents said they do not have an emergency plan in place for their business.

Up to 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or man-made disaster never reopen, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

By being prepared ahead of an emergency situation, many of these businesses have a better chance to survive and recover afterward.

That’s the aim of the National Safety Council and the office supply chain Staples; they have teamed up to help raise disaster planning awareness among small businesses.

In time to coincide with September’s National Preparedness Month, the new Staples.com Safety Research Center has guides to help small businesses prepare for common safety issues and emergencies, as well as access to a full assortment of health and safety-related products.

“It’s crucial for small businesses to have everything from a plan in place to the right safety supplies on hand, to ensure the health and well-being of their most valuable resource, their employees,” said Bob Risk, senior strategic safety, health and wellness manager for Staples, in a statement.

A recent survey by Staples revealed that half of workers at small businesses are either unsure if an emergency plan exists or say their company doesn’t have a plan at all. In addition, the study found that half of office workers participate in emergency drills only once every few years or do not hold them at all.

To help small businesses get started on disaster preparedness planning, Staples and the National Safety Council have offered several tips, including:

*Having an emergency plan. Small businesses should post an emergency evacuation plan and emergency action plan. The plan should include: emergency contact numbers, local medical facility locations and contact numbers, who in the workplace is trained in first aid, and how to ensure that employees are accounted for and in a safe location.

*Building an emergency kit. Include the basics for survival, such as flashlights, extra batteries, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, dust masks and first aid kits. Keep copies of important records stored in a waterproof, fireproof container. These records can include building plans, insurance policies, employee contact information, bank account records and other important documents.

*Backing up data. Have backup plans to ensure crucial data won’t be lost during a power outage.

*Practicing. Good preparation means conducting regular safety drills.

*Taking a first aid course or emergency response training, such as those offered from the National Safety Council.

To access the guides and health-and-safety-related products, visit the Safety Research Center at Staples.com.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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