Is your workplace safe for staff and visitors?
Do you have procedures in place to ensure that the safety of your workplace is regularly assessed and that your staff are familiar with what to do an emergency situation?
There are many things to consider as a business owner – how to run your business profitably, how to maximise sales and customer opportunities and how to ensure that your business runs effectively and safely. With all of these competing pressures, safety can sometimes slip down the list of priorities but it’s an important consideration and one that you can’t forget about. The good news is that if you plan in advance and put some straightforward procedures in place, then you can have peace of mind that safety is in hand, and you can get on with the day-to-day of running a successful business. With everything related to safety, prevention is key. Here are some tips around prevention to help you make your business a safe working environment.
The buck stops with you
As the owner of a business, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the business is operated safely and conforms to all the relevant occupational health and workplace safety legislation. It’s not just your job to ensure that the product or service you provide conforms to all safety legislation, but you also need to ensure that your business itself is a safe working environment for your staff and a safe place for your customers or suppliers to visit. So, what do you need to take into consideration to ensure that your workplace meets its safety obligations?
Get familiar with the legislation
Make sure you are familiar with the Occupational Health and Safety and Workplace safety legislation that applies to your state or territory and to your industry. Legislation can vary by state and also by industry, but every business has an obligation to understand the health and safety acts and your responsibilities under those acts.
Develop safety procedures and protocols
Develop safety procedures specifically for your business. The details of these procedures will vary depending on the type of business you operate. Here are some procedures that you should consider for your business – regardless of what industry you’re in.
#1: Emergency procedures
As a minimum, all businesses should have fire and emergency procedures in place so that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
#2: Evacuate! Evacuate!
Your team need to know what to do in the event of an evacuation alarm. That means having nominated fire and emergency wardens, making sure that all fire doors and exits are always operating correctly, having a nominated meeting point outside the building and conducting regular drills.
If your workplace is one where there are serious fire hazards (for example a commercial kitchen), then you need to conduct fire drills at least once every 3 months. Every business should have a fire or emergency evacuation drill at least once every 12 months.
No matter when you conduct a fire or evacuation drill, there’s always someone missing. They might be sick or on holidays or even just out on a sales call when the drill happens. Make sure with your drills to incorporate an additional requirement that the nominated fire warden in each area of the business needs to catch up with anyone who missed the drill and walk them through the procedure.
#3: Fire emergency without evacuation
Sometimes an evacuation isn’t necessary, or only becomes necessary when a small fire gets out of control. Make sure you have the right equipment in your workplace to deal with any small fires that might start. Every business must have at least one fire extinguisher and if you have a kitchen on the premises, you need a fire blanket to smother any small kitchen fires.
Jim’s Test and Tag offer Fire Protection Services. Their team of trained experts can evaluate your business, advise on the fire equipment you need to be safe and conform to the relevant legislation. They can also put a testing schedule in place so that your equipment is always primed and ready to use if that emergency arises one day.
#4: Medical emergencies
Every business needs a first aid kit that is kept in a central position and clearly signed. Jim’s team can help you find a kit that’s tailored to the needs of your business as it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. If you have a commercial kitchen for example, your first aid kit should be weighted towards burn injuries.
Many businesses are now considering defibrillators, but your decision around that equipment will depend on the size and type of your business. It’s not currently a safety requirement for most businesses.
Develop a procedure for dealing with medical emergencies that is appropriate for your business. It doesn’t need to be complex, but it does need to be effective. As a minimum, along with the first aid kit, everyone in your business should know who will call 000 if required.
#5: General procedures
Sometimes business owners think about the emergency procedures and don’t do enough to make sure that their business is a safe place every day in the normal course of work. Many of the guidelines you put into place to ensure day to day safety are common sense. Consider things like:
- Don’t overload power boards and double adapters;
- Clean up any spills immediately and block off the area until it is safe;
- Don’t block exit doors – even temporarily;
- Don’t use equipment you haven’t been trained to use;
- Don’t use any damaged electrical equipment (such as frayed cords and damaged plugs);
- Avoid trip hazards – think about where you put things around the office
It’s not just physical
Increasingly businesses are realising that workplace safety isn’t just physical. Mental and emotional safety is just as important. Develop procedures to keep your workplace a safe emotional space for your team. Consider guidelines such as:
- Zero tolerance for verbal abuse from customers (and what to do in this situation);
- Zero tolerance for bullying;
- Being kind to everyone you encounter; and
- Setting up an Employee Assistance Program (this can be outsourced) so employees know that there is somewhere they can get emotional and mental support in a difficult time.
Don’t keep it to yourself
Once you’ve considered all the safety procedures that you want to implement in your business then it’s time to think about how you’re going to communicate these guidelines to your team.
Emergency drills are easy to implement and should occur regularly. Emergency testing is also an easy fix if you use a reputable supplier like Jim’s Test and Tag who can advise on requirements and implement a testing schedule.
Document your procedures in clear and simple language. Make sure signage and equipment is easily seen and accessed. And add a safety briefing to your team onboarding. It’s just as important as everything else your new team member needs to know to do their job properly. By implementing these few simple procedures, you’ll be able to run your business knowing that safety is under control.