Finding good workers can be tough for any small business. Most employers are constantly looking for an edge over the competition, such as higher pay, better benefits or a lot of time off. But something that could really attract employees is a culture of workplace safety.
Employees want to feel safe while they are working, and they want to know that if anything does happen, their employer will have their back.
"In today's labor market, it's important that small businesses … recognize [that] safety of the work environment is a top priority for employees," said David Quezada, vice president of loss control at small business insurance company EMPLOYERS. "By fostering a safe work environment, small businesses can protect and retain their most valuable asset, their employees."
Workplace safety and recruiting
Feeling safe at work is crucial to retaining and recruiting employees. According to Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group, if an organization prides itself on keeping employees, suppliers and customers safe, that organization will invest a great deal of time and energy in defining its safety values in behavioral terms, modeling those safety behaviors, and holding everyone in the organization accountable for those safety behaviors.
"The organization's reputation as a safe, fun, inspiring, productive workplace creates positive word-of-mouth marketing for their organization as a great place to work," Edmonds said. "That buzz has great reach, which positively impacts recruiting."
On the other hand, if the organization's reputation is one of hit-or-miss safety, that creates negative word-of-mouth marketing, said Edmonds: "That buzz has great reach as well."
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Proper safety training is the first step in creating a safer work environment. A recent EMPLOYERS survey revealed that not many small business employees received workplace safety training (17 percent), and 25 percent of microbusiness employees responded that they never received workplace safety training.
Attending a training session might help one build knowledge and practice new safety-related behaviors. However, if the organization's culture doesn't reinforce what's learned, the training won't have any significant beneficial impact.
"Training is an important complement to a culture of workplace safety – but it won't move the needle much if the culture doesn't embed, reinforce and hold people accountable for safe behaviors every minute," Edmonds told Business News Daily.
How employers can create a culture of workplace safety
Creating a culture of workplace safety starts at the top, Quezada said.
"Business owners and management need to set an example by offering regular training and displaying proper safety signage, as well as by being open to their employees who report concerns," he told Business News Daily. "Yet, with the need for small business owners to wear many hats, and without the luxury of dedicated risk professionals on staff, many could benefit from additional resources to help them foster a safe work environment."
EMPLOYERS recommends small business owners take the following steps to create a culture of workplace safety that protects their workers and may provide a recruiting advantage:
- Identify and assess potential hazards. Business owners should take the time to recognize potential hazards in the work environment and develop policies and procedures to ensure employees can do their jobs safely.
- Lead by example. It is important to not only communicate safety goals to everyone within the company, but set the model example for others to follow.
- Train and educate regularly. Take the time to train new employees during orientation, and set up regular trainings for all employees throughout the year. It is also good practice to include workplace safety policies in employee handbooks and display safety posters throughout the workplace to remind employees about the business's safety priorities and procedures.
- Enforce and evaluate. Conduct regular workplace safety audits, safety meetings and annual safety training sessions to enforce regulations and keep safety top of mind for employees.
Finally, Edmonds advised defining and refining your desired workplace culture, and aligning your business practices with it.
"If you want to make values – like safety – as important as results, you must define desired values in observable, measurable, tangible terms (valued behaviors)," he said. "Then, measure, mentor and reward those few but vital behaviors every moment."