Workplace fatalities and injuries are always tragic, but for a small business they can be completely catastrophic. For many small employers, if a life is lost on their job it also means losing their business. Injuries and illnesses also mean trained, reliable employees spend time away from work; businesses pay more in workers’ compensation costs and insurance premiums skyrocket.
The good news is that for every dollar an employer spends on safety and health programs, they can expect to see six back. Preventing injuries and illnesses in the workplace provides a huge return on investment. It doesn’t just save lives, it saves money! Luckily, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has tools that can help.
OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice on how to keep workers safe to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country. In Fiscal Year 2013, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program conducted approximately 30,000 visits to small business worksites covering over 1.5 million workers nationwide. On-site consultations are completely separate from OSHA’s enforcement activities, and they never result in citations, penalties or follow-up investigations. They also work: Quality Associates, a packaging company in North Carolina, saw an 80% reduction in their workplace injury and illness rates from 2008 to 2012 after participating in the On-site Consultation program. This reduction also meant a 22% decrease in their workers compensation premiums.
In recognition of these achievements, Quality Associates was accepted into OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program in February 2010. SHARP recognizes small businesses operating an exemplary injury and illness prevention program and exempts worksites from OSHA programmed inspections during the period a SHARP certification is valid.
The talented and dedicated folks from OSHA that help with these services, as well as others like the Voluntary Protection and Challenge programs, are known as compliance assistant specialists. Compliance Assistance Specialists can provide general information about OSHA standards and access to resources. They respond to requests for help from a variety of groups, including small businesses, trade associations, union locals, and community and faith-based groups. There is generally one Compliance Assistance Specialist in each OSHA Area Office in states under federal jurisdiction. They are available for seminars, workshops, and speaking events.
In addition, OSHA maintains a web site full of helpful information relevant to small businesses, including a fun, interactive Hazard ID tool to help employers identify and fix problems before they lead to a terrible and expensive injury.
In a small business, the bottom line always matters, and the bottom line is that employers can’t afford not to invest in the safety of their workers.
Doug Kalinowski is the director of Cooperative and State Programs for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.