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Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 33.1 million businesses in the U.S. qualify as small businesses, making up a staggering 99.9% of all the businesses in the country. And more than that, the same report revealed that small businesses employ a total of 61.7 million people or 46.4% of the entire U.S. workforce. But despite their significance, the importance of prioritizing something as critical as health and safety is often overshadowed by day-to-day operations. This blog aims to shed light on why safety is so important for small businesses and how investing in your business’ safety culture can pay off in the future.


Don’t Put Safety on the Backburner

It’s easy for small businesses to brush off health and safety training as an unnecessary expense, especially with a small but experienced staff. You may assume that your employees already know how to do their jobs safely, or that safety as a concept is common sense. However, as the workplace continues to evolve and change, so should safety training. What might have worked in the past may not be enough now. And to be clear, no matter how workplaces evolve — safety is as important as ever.


Why Safety is So Vital to Small Businesses

Every workplace has hazards. Being aware and properly educated on those around you can have a huge impact on mitigating risk and potential injuries. Even while working in an office, employees can face electrical hazards, ergonomic issues, and even potential trips and falls from cords or open drawers. It’s important to develop a comprehensive safety program that addresses as many potential risks your employees may be exposed to in order to avoid workers’ compensation claims and costly lawsuits.


Workers’ Compensation Claims Can Shut Down a Business

Almost 70% of small business owners have faced a workers’ compensation insurance claim in the last five years, according to Hanover’s 2024 Small Business Risk Report: A Focus on Workers’ Compensation. Just one serious workplace injury could have the potential to cripple a business, forcing it to shut down permanently. That alone can be a major driver to developing an effective workplace safety program. Even with workers’ compensation insurance required for most small businesses, by having the right program in place and a culture of safety to support it, you can protect your business from expensive lawsuits.


Business must be OSHA Compliant

OSHA requires all businesses, regardless of size, to provide employees with a safe workplace. This means educating employees about existing hazards. Compliance can be as straightforward as labeling cleaning products or informing employees about their potential risks. It could also mean creating a comprehensive safety manual outlining company policies and procedures. Investing the time into developing effective safety procedures and protocols not only safeguards your employees but also shows OSHA that you’re motivated, committed, and fostering a safe work environment.


Prioritizing Safety is a Smart Business Decision

Prioritizing safety isn’t just a regulatory requirement, it’s also a smart business decision. Proactive safety programs can help companies save money in the long run. Whether it’s in paid time off, hospital bills, or even increased insurance costs, creating a program that focuses on the well-being of your employees in the moment and in the future can help to boost morale and even productivity. Studies have shown that employees who feel valued and cared for are more productive. Ultimately, safety training doesn’t just keep employees safe — it can help to ensure your employees know they are cared for.


A Step-by-Step Approach to Safety for Small Businesses:

Implementing a safety program for your small business may seem daunting, but breaking it down into manageable steps can make the process easier.


1. Workplace safety starts with planning

In most cases, it pays to plan before you dive into action. Workplace safety is no exception. Taking time to review what you have, or don’t have, can help to inform what you need to create.

2. Perform a hazard assessment

Performing a hazard assessment is vital for workplace safety. It means finding hazards in the workplace by looking at things like the type of work, equipment, and layout. Once hazards are found and the level of risk has been determined, businesses can create plans to eliminate the hazard or reduce the risk, like adding safety measures or providing training. Using this information in safety programs makes the workplace safer, showing care for employees’ health.

3. Start with the basics

While it may seem redundant, you’ll want to start with the basics of workplace safety. Do you have the required postings hung in your facility or office? Have you reviewed your workers’ compensation insurance policy to make sure it’s up to date? Make sure you’ve covered foundational elements of safety to the best of your knowledge and ability, and then look to where you may need to expand.

4. Get your employees involved

Finally, you must engage your employees in the ongoing process. This includes recognizing safety hazards and determining the level of risk, coming up with solutions, training, and ensuring that everyone is involved. It takes everyone to ensure that your safety culture thrives, which means you’ll need to foster a sense of ownership and accountability among all your employees.


Prioritizing Safety is a Smart Business Decision

Ultimately, prioritizing safety isn’t just about meeting regulations; it’s a strategic move that benefits both your employees and your business. Investing in safety measures not only protects your workforce, who are your most valuable asset but also contributes to your business’s bottom line. Safety training fosters a positive work environment where employees feel cared for, leading to greater engagement and productivity. When employees feel good about their jobs and know that their well-being is valued by the business, they become more invested in its success. Therefore, implementing an effective safety program is not just about compliance; it’s about cultivating a culture of safety that enhances employee well-being and ensures the long-term prosperity of your business.

To learn more about the process, download our guide, “Four Steps to Implementing a Safety Program for Your Small Business”  and see how you can create a program with small business resources and budget.