Opening a New Business – Is It Safe?

Hospitality / Retail, Office

So, 2019 is the year you are finally going to do it – make your dream come true and open your own business. No matter what type of shingle you hang, there are seemingly hundreds of steps to take in preparation for that first day.

You’ve done everything right, checked all the boxes. You’ve put together a killer business plan, secured your funding, found a great location, developed your brand and a wicked smart marketing strategy, hired the right people. You’re ready to open the doors, right?

Hold on – what have you done to keep your business SAFE? Not just fiscally safe, but physically safe? As an employer you have a legal and moral responsibility to provide a safe work environment for your employees, customers/clients/patients and visitors. No matter what type of shingle you hang.

We tend to think of injuries happening in construction and manufacturing but healthcare accidents happen at a higher rate than either of those industries.* Retail, food, education and white-collar spaces aren’t exempt. Safety concerns can range from slip and fall accidents to fire, theft, threatening weather, exposure to allergens and chemicals, terrorism, cyber security… all real threats to any size or any type business.

First Steps

Start with a physical walk through of your business. You’ll be surprised at what you might have overlooked.

Parking Lot:

  • Is the parking lot well lit?
  • What about parking and directional signage?
  • Is it free of debris and do you have a snow/ice removal plan in place?

Entrances:

  • Is there adequate entrance/exit signage and lighting?
  • Is the entrance free of hazards like snow, ice and other obstacles?
  • Are emergency numbers listed on your doors?

Interior:

  • Is your interior space well lit and free of trip and fall hazards like loose carpeting or floor boards?
  • Is your office and/or building Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant?
    ADA covers way more than restrooms! Go to ada.gov for info on compliance responsibilities.
  • Are potential hazardous materials properly identified and posted?
    Those coming in contact with anything from peanuts to toxic chemicals, as well as tools of your trade like x-ray machines or conveyor belts should be cautioned.
  • Do you have fire alarms and smoke detectors?
    Your landlord must install fire/smoke alarms. However, fire extinguishers are your responsibility and local fire departments will make unannounced visits to make sure you are in compliance!
  • Safety kit? Flashlights? Back-up power?
    Most importantly, every one of your employees must be able to easily locate these elements in an emergency.

Compliance to Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) requires many (but not all) businesses to post caution and warning signs and employee rights/information posters.

Every state has laws requiring compliance signing for everything from guns to chemicals. In many cases, failure to bring your business into compliance with OSHA, ADA or state regulations comes with a stiff fine or business closure until compliance is met.

Emergency Plan

The most important plan you’ll ever make and hopefully, never implement.

An effective Emergency Plan should start and end with review and practice. Fire and evacuation drills aren’t frivolous and they are definitely not silly. They will save time and could save lives in cases of fire, weather or terror threats.

This written plan should include emergency phone numbers, as well as evacuation plans and maps that include a post-disaster meeting place. A phone tree is advisable but keep in mind it will need to be updated as employees come and go.

Take a Deep Breath

Making your new business safe isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds. Often your Secretary of State’s office can direct you to the information you need when you register your business. Your lawyer and insurance agent (you have both of these, right?) can help, as well.

A solid SAFETY PROGRAM not only keeps your employees and visitors safe, but it also keeps your business safe from frivolous law suits and accusations.

Workplace safety is a fluid issue – it’s never really finished. Revisit your Safety Assessment each year, tweak it (remember to update your phone chain and recharge your fire extinguisher!), and review it with all of your employees.

Enjoy your successful, safe environment and good luck on your new venture!

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Author bioLaura Sandin is an experienced marketing consultant and successful entrepreneur who understands the need for practical solutions that address the challenges of today’s business environment. Writing is her passion, and her experience includes many industries from the east coast to the west.