Small-to-Medium Businesses And Safety: Six Areas Where They Have An Advantage

Smaller businesses face safety challenges. No doubt about it.  They receive most of the fines from OSHA.  They often lack the resources to have full-time safety staff or to respond adequately to incidents.  Lost-time injuries hit them harder because of insurance rates.  Because employees tend to wear more hats in smaller companies, an injury may mean losing critical skillsets.

But smaller companies do have some advantages.  Let’s look at a few.

  1. It’s Personal – Small businesses are more like a family than larger firms; employees may even be family members.  The owner knows everyone by name and employees have direct access to the owners.  It is much easier for the owner of a small business to exhibit visible leadership and for employees to bring safety concerns directly to the boss, two of the most important factors in cultivating safety culture. 
  2. Right-sizing Safety – There is a saying – small companies manage people; big companies manage processes. One mistake we see a lot is smaller companies trying to adopt a big company’s safety program, with all the bells and whistles.  They are losing their best advantage – the ability to fit safety to their unique operations and the people they are trying to protect.  Being able to implement safety policies without bureaucracy and turf battles is a gift.
  3. Free Stuff!!! – Seriously, there are a lot of safety resources aimed at providing free assistance to small businesses, including state agencies and insurance companies that will provide free training, coaching  and site assessments.  In Texas, where we are located, the Department of Insurance even has a lending library of safety videos.
  4. They Are The Experts – Much of safety is common sense and experience.  Entrepreneurs often start businesses because they are experts in their niche. That makes it easier to recognize the hazards and build safety into the way people work.
  5. Stand-On-A-Chair Communications – A national consultant on organizations, Patty McCord, says that the head of a smaller company ought to be able to stand on a chair and talk to every employee.   As companies grow, communicating vision and rules gets harder.  The first time someone in back yells, “We can’t hear you,” it is a sign that the company needs a different management style.  The tipping point appears to be about 150  employees. The boss who can still stand on a chair and stress safety  is more likely to get the message across. 
  6. The Safety Advantage – A study by Employers Insurance found that a safe workplace was one of the most important factors employees considered in working for a company.  No, that doesn’t mean job applicants want to see your workers comp reports, but it does mean that a reputation for being unsafe will scare off the best candidates.   A strong safety record is one of the best investments a company can make, especially in a small business environment where competitors may be tempted to cut corners to save a few bucks.

Need help managing your program?  Lifeline Strategies gives you a cost-effective way to outsource your safety needs or just have a resource to help your own safety department.  If nothing else, we can be an outside set of eyes to make sure you haven’t missed anything.   Contact us at  

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