Are you a small business? Do you worry about everything that needs to be done? Don’t forget about the importance of workplace safety; otherwise, you could be fined stiff penalties by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Fixing hazards can prevent costly fines plus improve operations and reduce overall expenses. When an employee is seriously injured, the impact on a company’s bottom line is steep. Employers pay nearly $49 billion a year or close to $1 billion a week in medical costs, wage payments, and insurance-claims management as a result of workplace injuries, according to the 2006 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. What are the top causes of injury? The top causes are excessive lifting, falling and slipping or tripping, pitfalls so common that almost every small business industry is vulnerable.

Despite the risks, most small business owners don’t prioritize for workplace safety, that is, not until they get an OSHA inspection nor have an accident. The National Foundation of Independent Business (NFIB) researched the topic of workplace safety in 2002 and found that 26 percent of all small employers and 53 percent of those employing 20 or more people had been subject to an OSHA inspection within the previous five years. The NFIB’s research found that many small employers underestimated risks in the workplace – particularly employers in statistically more dangerous industries, such as construction, manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture.

Workplace safety may get overlooked simply because small-business owners have too many other things to worry about. Larger companies typically have managers or departments in charge of safety. But in three out of four small businesses, the owner is primarily the person responsible, according to research. Attention to workplace safety can reduce the chance of fines, lower insurance premiums, increase productivity, and encourage employee morale.

Here are tips for how to create a good workplace safety program for your business:

  • Know the dangers of what lurks within your business scope: Ask for employee feedback about workplace safety, hire a safety consultant, be an employee for a week to see the dangers first hand, use small business resources to link to safety issues, network with other small businesses about safety issues – the bottom line – don’t ignore the issue.
  • Consult your insurance company as they know a lot about workplace safety simply because they sell workers’ compensation insurance. They like it when small-business clients report fewer accidents, as that means they don’t have to pay as much in claims. Small-business owners overwhelmed by OSHA rules should just boil everything down to the basics by training employees on how to do their job well and making sure that tools and equipment are adequate.

Any small business that has employees needs to comply with workers’ compensation laws, which vary from state to state. The programs are designed to compensate workers who are injured on the job, and protect employers from potentially devastating litigation. Most states require businesses to buy workers’ compensation insurance. Generally, sole proprietors and partnerships are exempt.

  • Inspect your small business for safety: Do your provide employees with carts for moving heavy objects? Do you keep floors free of holes, water, and grease? Do you remove snow and ice from the parking lot? Do you make sure exterior walkways are well-lit? Do all your stairways have adequate handrails? These are some of the many questions you should be asking as you inspect your workplace for safety.
  • OSHA provides safety and health training at education centers across the country. You can also request a free consultation at your workplace with an OSHA-trained professional. The service is free, but you need to commit to correcting any serious job safety and health hazards that are found.