Small businesses aren’t just individuals or pairings of individuals going against the norm to carve their own way through life; they’re one of the main pillars of the economy in several parts of the world.
Small businesses employ local community members in meaningful, fulfilling positions, and they bring communities together in ways that simply aren’t possible with big corporations with headquarters thousands of miles away.
However, small businesses are also at a disadvantage with some things. They don’t have the resources or connections necessary to cover every tiny aspect of business with the same level of scrutiny as mega-corporations can.
For example, some corporations have created their own legal departments to handle lawsuits against their companies, independent health and safety departments, in-house IT services, and more; practically making them invulnerable from outside scrutiny or reliant on other companies.
A small business can’t do that, and one area that small businesses tend to fall behind in because of is the health and safety field.
If you’re a small business, there are some things you need to know about occupational safety, why it’s important, and different obstacles or challenges that you might face is a small business.
What is Occupational Health?
Occupational health is not just one thing. It’s a very wide field of job positions covering the topics of both on-the-job injuries and preventing those injuries; as such, there are many types of job positions involved in occupational health, from treatment to on-site prevention and managerial guidance, that all fall under occupational health.
In general, if the position is related to a worker’s safety or responding to workplace accidents, it falls under the occupational health umbrella.
What is an Occupational Health Program?
You have probably participated in an occupational health program without even realizing it. Think back to before you were a business owner. Maybe you were working your first job unloading trucks at a big box store? You were likely told that if anything were to happen, no matter how small the injury, you were to immediately report to management or designated personnel so they could evaluate the situation and respond. That is part of an occupational therapy program.
These programs are far more complex than that, but they’re essentially outlines and services set up to ensure that employees are following safety protocols, oversight is established to prevent reckless behaviour or unnecessary risks, and there are options available in a clear outline if a workplace accident or illness occurs.
What Do Occupational Health Programs Cover?
These programs cover anything that could affect one’s workplace health.
Primarily, this has to do with injuries. Safety practices and standards are laid out for employees (and management) to follow throughout day-to-day work processes, and specific actions are required if injuries occur.
The same is done for illnesses that may impact the workplace. An occupational health program covers what individual employees should do if they’re sick, steps that should be taken should a serious illness spread around the workplace, and emergency action plans just in case something such as Covid-19 breaks out and the facility needs to be sterilized.
Much of an occupational health program consists of illness and injury prevention, but the treatment of those things when they become an issue is also considered, and networked doctors or specialists are often partnered with ahead of time to ensure employees have a safe place to go without becoming bankrupt or risking their livelihood.
Do You Need an Occupational Health Program?
Yes, even if you can’t have a specialized Health and Safety Officer inside of your business at all times, you do need an occupational health program.
There are two reasons for this.
First, your employees deserve to know you care about their health and safety, and the program will help protect you. If you have nothing in place, have improperly trained workers, and something happens due to your neglect, you can get sued. As a small business, that can end your business venture outright.
Not only that, but you have to. It is a legal requirement, and part of OSHA standards, for you to have an occupational health program in place. There are requirements set in place by OSHA that you must abide by, too. So, ensure that your program is up to snuff to prevent legal problems when inspections start happening.
Do You Need a Health and Safety Officer?
As a small business, there’s one big question you probably have. Do you really need a health and safety officer to keep things running smoothly? The answer to that is yes and no.
Technically, having one is never a bad thing. However, we understand that you don’t have the resources of a major company, and depending on what you’re doing, hiring an above-average-wage employee to inspect employee conditions and provide guidance might not be an option.
If your small business is exceptionally low risk, such as a retail business, training employees properly and having management trained to understand the safety and health needs of employees can be an acceptable approach. If you’re running a small production company, it’s a little more complicated. Your employees are working around dangerous equipment, the risk of workplace injuries is much higher, and in general, investing in a Health and Safety Officer is a worthwhile investment.
If getting one isn’t an option, outsourcing the work to a service that can maintain occupational health standards periodically is an affordable route to take.
What Will a Health and Safety Officer Bring to Your Company?
A Health and Safety Officer brings a lot more to the table than just walking around and looking at things. They bring expert knowledge to the equation.
A Health and Safety Officer will help you develop your occupational health program, oversee your employees periodically to ensure they’re operating safely, inspect equipment and work conditions to ensure that no risks are being presented that could be avoided, and of course, report anything that goes against that directly to you for correction. Not only that, but they’ll serve as advisors to help innovate your business’s safety practices to prevent productivity-destroying injuries and outbreaks.
All in all, a Health and Safety Officer will be a boon that keeps your company, and your employees, in good health at all times.