Workplace safety in small businesses

Did you know that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime?

In simpler terms, you are likely to spend a third of your life at work.

Therefore, if your work environment is toxic, it is highly likely that the negativity will spill over to other areas of your life.

A safe and supportive work environment makes employees more productive, which ultimately translates into a healthier bottom line for your business.

Additionally, when you take steps to ensure the safety of your workspace, you’re less likely to be sued by employees over safety issues.

With this in mind, workplace safety isn’t just a checklist of rules and regulations. 

Instead, workplace safety is an intrinsic part of ensuring your business’ success. 

With some effort and the support of your team, you can create a workspace that is safe for all employees.

These tips will guide you in creating a safe working environment:

Provide the Right Tools

As a business owner, it is your duty to provide your workers with the right tools for their tasks.

By “tools”, we mean equipment, devices, software, machines, mechanisms and anything that assists employees in effectively performing their tasks.

When you don’t provide employees with the right tools, they are forced to use whatever is readily available to them.

This can lead to time wastage and shoddily completed projects that will leave your clients unhappy.

Unhappy clients usually translate into fewer profits for your business.

In addition, incorrect or faulty tools pose a safety hazard to workers. If your workers suffer injuries due to your negligence in providing the right tools, this will have grave consequences for you in a courtroom.

Whether you have an outdoor workplace or otherwise, it is essential to ensure your workers always have access to the tools they need.

It is also your job to ensure that the tools and equipment are regularly cleaned, serviced, and inspected. 

Providing the right tools will: 

  • Make your workplace safer
  • Make the job easier
  • Prevent time wastage
  • Promote a culture of productivity
  • Keep your clients happy and your bottom line fat

Use Proper Uniforms

Did you know that providing employees with uniforms can contribute to their job satisfaction?

In 2012, Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, conducted several experiments on the effect of uniforms on employees.

Galinsky and his colleagues discovered that students who were instructed to wear a doctor’s lab coat were more attentive and focused than those who didn’t. 

In addition to making employees more attentive and giving them job satisfaction, uniforms are also essential for ensuring workplace safety.

Uniforms are especially important for businesses in construction, hospitality, home improvement, manufacturing, food processing, firefighting and other areas which require protective gear.

In some industries, employers are required to provide workers with industrial-quality uniforms

Such uniforms are designed to protect your employees from workplace hazards such as fire, chemicals, electric shocks, falling objects and so on.

Most work uniforms are also made of high-visibility materials to ensure workers are always easily observable, which promotes workplace safety. 

In addition to improving safety, work uniforms also promote cleanliness in the workplace.

Make sure employees know they have to be in uniform at all times in the workplace, for their own good.

Designate Proper Emergency Exits

In the case of an emergency, such as a fire, employees can get trapped in the building if it doesn’t have properly designed emergency exits.

An emergency exit is defined as a continuous and unobstructed path of exit from a building. 

Emergency exits should be easily accessible from any point within a workplace to a place of safety.

Emergency exits are essential in ensuring workplace safety because:

  • They enable quick escape in case of an emergency.
  • They can be used to access the workplace when the other exits are blocked.
  • They can help prevent the spread of fire. This helps save lives, reduces injuries, and minimises damage to the workplace. 

While any exit within a building should be considered a potential emergency exit, you should still have designated “emergency exits.”

To keep these exits safe

  • Ensure they are properly marked “Emergency Exit”. 
  • Instruct employees to keep them clear from obstructions. 
  • Keep any highly-inflammable furnishings and decorations far away from emergency exits.
  • Ensure emergency exits are well-lit. 
  • Post signs on walls to indicate safe evacuation routes.
  • Have clear labels on doors that might be mistaken for emergency exits. The signs can indicate the room’s purpose such as “Closet”, “Restroom” and so on.
  • Maintain emergency exits during construction, renovation, or repairs in the workplace.

Set Boundaries and Expectations

As an employer, it’s advisable that you conduct a workshop for your team where you can set clear boundaries and expectations. 

One of the best ways to promote workplace safety is through clear communication regarding safety protocols and expectations.

To increase worker buy-in, have them take an active role in these discussions.

Employees are less likely to feel like you’re imposing rules and regulations on them if they feel involved. 

Right from the start, make sure employees know the safety requirements.

If you’re unsure about the safety requirements to include in your employee handbook, consider consulting a physical therapist. They will analyze the physical demands of each job role and advise you accordingly.

Make sure all employees know they can report health and safety concerns to you as soon as they notice them. 

Alternatively, you can appoint a safety captain who employees can report such concerns to on a consistent basis. 

Bonus Tip: Words Matter

The words we use can affect people’s attitudes.

When it comes to workplace safety, it is important to use words that make it more likely for people to pay attention.

For example, instead of going with the uninspiring “Safety Regulations”, you can refer to it as the “I Care Handbook.

This kind of language shows employees that the company cares for their safety and wellbeing. Therefore, they will be more likely to adhere to your safety guidelines.

Remember, creating a safer working environment will only benefit your business. 

Try the tips outlined above, and you’ll definitely have a safer workplace for your employees.


Article contribution by Alsco New Zealand. Alsco aims to help create a healthier and safer workplace by providing affordable yet high-quality uniform rental service and hospital-grade first aid solutions.

Top Tips on Making Your Workplace a Safer Working Environment

Category: Employee Management