As a startup, health and safety of your employees is something you need to get right in order to stay on the path to success
Working in a safe environment is the fundamental right of any employee and it is the employer’s duty to provide a workplace that is safe from disease, accidents, violence, exposure to toxins etc.
Here are a few steps a startup can take toward making the workplace a safe one.
Businesses, especially startups need to take into account the effect that communicable diseases such as the common cold can have on the workforce. Employers allot a limited number of sick leave which often makes the employee want to limit their time away on sick leave.
However, by coming into work while unwell, these employees will only cost the organisation more in the long term when a greater number of people get infected and have to take sick leave.
The solution lies in encouraging people to work from home if they are coming down with something but feel good enough to get work done. This means ensuring that employees are equipped with the means to work at home, for example, a work email account.
It’s also important to train all employees to be able to do multiple roles. This means that one worker’s absence can then be taken up by another employee in times of sickness. While the extra training required for this may cost an employer in the short term, it will pay off in the long term with avoiding drop in productivity. A startup will be affected more than a larger company if a group of employees take sick leave at the same time.
As a startup, it is your duty to conduct a hazard analysis for every role in your company. This means examining the job from all angles including every procedure that is involved with every process. This means looking at what equipment each employee comes in contact with during their job on a daily basis.
An additional step that is often called risk mapping involves the employer surveying the physical working environment and making contingency plans for any potential hazards. For example, an area that has slippery flooring near liquids requires handrails. Areas with highly flammable products nearby should be no smoking areas etc.
One of the most common sources of fatal accidents is threat of violence from external sources. This is something a startup needs to take into account especially if the employees will be interacting with the public, working alone or in small groups or if they will be handling money. Make sure the area around the workplace is equipped with security camera, is well lit and if working late is an issue in your area, then it is worth changing the working hours or opting for flexi-work hours.
Gas leaks are a common hazard in brick and mortar offices. It may be worth investing in carbon monoxide detectors as it could save lives. Firstly, do your research and find out exactly what toxins and chemical your employees could come into contact with.
Secondly, spread awareness among employees on the correct way to handle and work with any substances. This also means providing employees with information pertaining to disposal, first aid, emergency, storage and any other health effects they should know about.
In work involving construction, falls are a major cause of death and any startup needs to take these risks into mind when planning safety measures. It’s essential to train employees regarding safety procedures and conduct test drills. It’s also essential to provide the correct protective equipment such as railings, hard hats etc. as required for each role.
Every business no matter how large or small must educate its workers regarding workplace accidents. This means educating employees not only on hazards and accidents but on local threats or seasonal threats, for example, in areas prone to earthquakes employees need to be made aware of how to react or where to go in the event of an emergency.
If your employees are working in an environment that is not ergonomically suitable then it could result in chronic health problems that can cause health damage in the long terms along with loss of productivity in the short term. If your workplace has computer workstations there are certain guidelines that must be followed.
These include being able to rest your wrist, avoiding any craning or unnatural bending of back, neck or eyes. It is also important for any office chairs to provide lumbar support in the form of cushions or anything that provides support to the lower back.
Another common problem in the workplace is loss of hearing that is especially common when working in manufacturing. Something as simple as providing headphones can help cancel out excessive noise but while it’s great to provide safety equipment, it’s also necessary to educate the employees on what the protective gear is for and how to use it.
As a startup, health and safety of your employees is something you need to get right in order to stay on the path to success. Not only do you need to stay on the right side of the law, but a work environment that takes great care of its employees is a place where people want to work.
Swati is a qualified dietitian at Practo. She has a Masters degree in Dietetics and Food Service Management.
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