Creating a Safety Culture in a Small Business Environment
If you are a small business that has decided to reopen, how can you work to create a safety culture, now and in the age of the new normal?
- By Jennifer Dawson
- Sep 29, 2020
Despite the fact that some businesses in the U.S. are currently seeing an uptick in new COVID-19 cases, many small and medium businesses are slowly opening, with some sectors (like the tourism sector) rebounding to around 50% of normal levels in states like California. Businesses that do make the decision to open offices must work to foster an atmosphere of safety in order to prevent disease and ensure that employee motivation and general safety are at optimal levels. Many sectors (such as restaurants) are subject to strictly regulated reopening norms, which include reducing diner numbers and maintaining a prescribed distance between tables. If you are a small business that has decided to reopen for business, how can you work to create a safety culture, now and in the age of "the new normal?"
Checking Rules for Your Sector
The first step towards making employees safe is following rules established by your respective state. Many have ‘reopen’ rules by sector—for instance, Connecticut has different rules for hotels, amusement parks, indoor recreation, sports and fitness facilities, and the like. These include strict cleaning protocols, limiting capacities, allowing those who can work from home to continue doing so, using face masks, and ensuring that those aged over 65 stay home. By sharing these rules with employees and committing to science-based and government-backed protocols, businesses can help employees feel more secure in their workspace.
The pandemic is an unprecedented and life-changing event that has led many managers to feel ‘at a loss’ as to how to react to different needs of employees. It is important for managers to take workers’ individual concerns into account. For instance, workers who have pre-existing conditions or with family members who have illnesses such as diabetes or respiratory disease should feel free to tell managers about it and to request to continue working from home.
Personality type may also play a role in telecommuting. For instance, people who are more introverted and intuitive by nature may actually be more productive under a remote working model. Managers may therefore decide to send staff surveys about productivity; this has actually occurred in many Australian firms during the pandemic, with the majority of workers electing work-from-home models. Not all workers are extroverts and those who aren’t can feel distracted or less efficient when working in a large office.
Training Staff on Safety
Right now, everyone’s mind is on COVID-19, but regular staff safety training is key in any business. In addition to safety and hygiene advice for the upcoming months, other important topics should not be forgotten. Training needs to be continual because there are so many topics to cover. These range from ergonomics to free safety, cybersecurity, employee health resources, and equipment safety.
There are many resources for small and medium businesses—including specialized kits and regulations that businesses can easily access and share. Returning workers should be aware of the pertinent rules and be ensured that management is fully committed to fulfilling them. Staff should also be given the opportunity to continue working from home if it does not interfere with their efficiency. Finally, other important safety matters should also be the subject of continued training for both office and remote workers.