As a small business owner, there's no scarier nightmare than a customer or employee being involved in an accident in your place of business. But the nightmare doesn't end there. The true horror lies in what happens next: receipt of a letter from an attorney or a civil complaint alleging your liability and seeking compensation. But perhaps the true nightmare of it all lies in one simple realization - the situation might have been prevented or avoided if you routinely followed some standard safety procedures.
The majority of all accidents in the workplace are "slip and fall". Most of these occur on the same level, while the remaining result from falls from a height, such as ladders or stairs. To prevent these falls, you first have to understand how they happen. Common causes of slips include oily or wet surfaces, spills, weather hazards and loose rugs or mats. Similarly, "trips" frequently occur in the workplace, mainly caused by obstructed view, clutter, poor lighting, wrinkled rugs or carpeting, uncovered cables or wires and uneven steps or walkways.
To prevent many of these slip and fall or tripping accidents, make it a habit to walk through your business and check for hazards, such as cracking floors, uneven walkways, obstacles, open file cabinets, etc. Since many accidents occur due to slips or trips, it may be necessary to replace or recoat your flooring. If walkways are uneven, you might want to consider replacing your entire flooring to create a more even, level walkway. In the absence of a total replacement, you can avoid slippery surfaces by installing install mats, abrasive strips or any material that creates friction.
Replace any loose or cracking floor tiles, level out any uneven walkways, remove common obstacles placed on the floor, secure all rugs and carpets to the floor, cover all cords and wires that run across walkways, close any opened doors or cabinets and be sure to replace any light bulbs and faulty switches to ensure proper lighting. Also, make it a business policy for both you and your employees to clean up spills immediately, clearly mark all wet areas and sweep and mop all debris immediately.
To ensure safety of employees, guide employees to wear proper footing that will create friction and avoid slips and falls. Also, maintain bright lighting in the place of business and in break rooms and stock rooms to avoid the possibility of tripping or running into equipment. Provide flashlights in all stock rooms that are normally not well lit and in places where employees might travel in order to retrieve stocked merchandise or other items.
To ensure that these safety measures are taken by employees, create an Employee Handbook that strictly addresses these procedures and make them required daily practices in the routine of their job description. Also, schedule routine evaluations of employees and make sure they are adhering to the safety policies. The more you stress the importance of safety and accident prevention, the more your employees will understand the importance and will follow the procedures you set forth.
If all else fails, utilize the ever-effective "scare tactic" method - employees will be more likely to follow safety procedures when they are part of their necessary job duties, when reprimands are given when they're not followed and when the possibility exists that they may lose their job if there are multiple incidents of not following safety precautions.
To fully prevent common workplace accidents, it is important to remember that it takes a full team effort. However, as a business owner, it is your responsibility to lead your team and ultimately your sole responsibility to prove a safe environment for your employees and your customers. Implementing certain safety procedures will help ensure that your next letter in the mail isn't from a disgruntled injured customer looking for justified compensation.
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