Is Your Small Business Prepared for an Emergency?

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Several years ago a friend of mine who owns a chain of carpet stores went on a safety kick. He bought fire extinguishers, created first aid kits for each store, had the company go through emergency drills – the whole ball of wax.

His employees thought that he was a bit nutty about the subject for, oh, about three months – until a fire broke out in the storeroom one day. His staff was able to put it out almost instantly (and his sanity was re-affirmed.)

The fact is, it is easy to take workplace safety for granted, except that you never know when “too late” will strike. So in honor of National Safety Month, let’s agree that the time is now to take safety seriously.

But apparently most employers do not get that. According the third annual workplace safety survey by Staples, only about half of all employees feel that their workplace is prepared for a severe emergency. In addition, the survey found that

  • About 2/3 of those polled said that recent natural disasters have not led their employers to reassess company safety plans, and yet
  • In the past six months, nearly half of all businesses have closed due to severe weather

And that means that most small businesses are not properly prepared for potential emergencies. Indeed, according to the survey, the top three safety concerns for employees are:

  • Slips, Trips and Falls: Accidents involving slips, trips and falls send 9 million people to the hospital each year and are a leading cause of workers’ compensation claims.
  • Natural disasters and storms: Less than half of employees say their employers have the plans or equipment in place for storms, tornadoes, hurricanes or earthquakes, yet according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25% of businesses do not reopen after a natural disaster.
  • Fire: Fire is one of the most common safety incidents (just ask my pal!)

The good news is that getting your business safety ready should not be that difficult. It is simply a matter of making a safety assessment and then getting the supplies you need. (And I am happy to report that my friends at Staples have whatever safety products you need to keep your business and employees safe.)

Let’s look at what you should be looking for in your safety assessment:

1. First Aid Kits & Supplies: First aid kits should include items like bandages, first aid cream, cold packs, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, bandages, scissors, tape, etc. Your first aid kit should be easily accessible to all employees.

2. Other safety products. This could include crank-powered cell phone chargers and flashlights, and personal protective equipment (see below.)

3. Fire Extinguishers: There are three types of fire extinguishers:

  • Class A fire extinguishers are designed to extinguish fires caused by items like wood, paper and cloth.
  • Class B fire extinguishers are designed to extinguish fires caused by things like flammable and combustible liquids.
  • Class C fire extinguishers are designed to extinguish electrical fires.

The smart plan therefore is to get a multi-class fire extinguisher (ABC multi-class fire extinguishers) designed to extinguish all three types of fires.

4. Emergency action plan: For starters, employees should know the preferred ways in and out of your building. Additionally, your action plan should include designation of an employee in charge of evacuation, notification of where to locate fire extinguishers and first aid kits, and the creation of an emergency contact list.

5. Have property safety equipment. This should include

  • Eye wear
  • Hearing protection
  • Head protection
  • Gloves
  • Protective clothing

6. Required Postings: Be sure to post proper safety signage around your business, as well as appropriate OSHA regulations.

To help you with your safety planning, you can visit Staples Safety Research Center. Finally, you might also want to check out this cool workplace safety infographic.

Stay safe out there!