If invested in properly, health and safety is the well-secured ladder that startups can use to climb to the top, says safety writer Justin O’Sullivan
Let’s be honest, “rigorous health and safety” is not an expression that gets startup founders excited. However, here are six reasons why it absolutely should.
It’s a difficult balance, I’ll admit. On the one hand, you want to “move fast and break things”, throw caution to the wind, and learn from your mistakes as you go. On the other hand, you want to have a solid business plan, a solid idea of what your product is, and (something that is too often ignored) solid health and safety regulation.
For startups, health and safety need not be a draconian system of regulations that holds them back. Rather, if invested in properly, health and safety is the well-secured ladder that startups can use to climb to the top.
So, here are six reasons why startups need to invest more in health and safety.
They aren’t doing it enough right now
In the US, journalist David Wolinsky reports how far too many startups are completely unaware of their legal and moral responsibilities when it comes to health and safety. If you’re reading this thinking “well, thank goodness, at least I’m not alone!”, then you have completely missed the point. When a whole bunch of businesses are not doing something, that does not mean that you should not be doing it too. Rather, it means that it’s more important than ever to be one of the startups that invests in health and safety. Your business will stand out and, in the long run, it will make more money… No, it really will.
Safer businesses make more money
OSHA, the US Government’s official health and safety board, has done the maths here. For every US$1 spent on safety, businesses can save US$4-6. This figure comes from money that is not spent on lawsuits, repairs, sick pay, legal fees, overhead costs, etc. However, there are other things that safety can do for your startup that money can’t quantify. Things like the fact that.
Consumers and investors trust safer businesses
Nobody wants to buy from, or invest in, a dangerous company. The modern consumer can be a very moral person and so investors know that association with a company that mistreats its employees can be toxic. Accusations that Amazon mistreats its workers was big news back in August 2015. It’s true that Jay Carney, Amazon’s Vice President for Global Corporate Affairs, wrote an impassioned piece vehemently denying said claims, but that’s not the point. The point is that The New York Times felt that an unsafe workplace was scandal enough to write about and one of Amazon’s top employees recognised that it was scandal enough to deny. Consumers and investors care how safe your business is, but they’re not the only ones…
Employees trust safer businesses too
Nobody wants to work for a dangerous company either. People work in dangerous industries because they have to, and sometimes not even higher pay is enough to counteract the job dissatisfaction that comes from dangerous working conditions. One of the main reasons petrol tanker drivers went on strike in 2012 in the UK was due to lack of safety training. And it’s a vicious cycle too. HSE, the UK Government’s official health and safety board, is running training courses throughout 2016 on how low morale and a bad attitude towards work can lead to accidents. Accidents, of course, lower morale and staff attitude even more, and so breaking this cycle can be very difficult. Investing in health and safety as a startup means that you can stop this problem before it even begins.
Safety training motivates employees
If you can break the cycle of negativity, you can create a cycle of positivity. Staff with training are staff with confidence, motivation, and the desire to stay as your startup grows and to help you if you struggle. Entrepreneurs have long known that training is one of the key ways to motivate staff, and this same idea applies to health and safety training.
Move like a small business, think like a big business
You might be thinking that a lot of this is not relevant to your startup because your startup is small and these companies are big. However, thinking that would be a huge mistake, especially when you consider that startups become international giants precisely by thinking like international giants. “Move like a small business, think like a big business” is a business mantra so well established that it almost sounds cliche, but the strength of its truth has not changed. Investing in health and safety for your startup is a way of saying to yourself, “this company will grow and, when it does, it will be safe, respectable, and profitable”.
The author Justin O’Sullivan is the owner of Storage Equipment Experts as well as a passionate safety writer. His company specialises in racking inspections training courses for staff in startups, big businesses, and anything in between.
The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email at sainul[at]e27[dot]co
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