It might seem like enough trouble having to deal with the running of the business, the marketing, the human resources and the myriad of responsibilities you have as an owner. On top of that, thinking about health and safety might feel like little more than a headache. However, it’s essential to make sure you’re fulfilling your duties. Not only for the sake of your legal security and the business finances. A better approach to health, one that’s frank, recognising the needs on both sides, will create a happier, safer workplace for all involved.
One of the aspects of health and safety in any workplace that should be of most concern to you and your employees is the risk of a freak accident. Every workplace has the potential for these accidents. Whether they come in the form of slips, trips and falls, fire accidents, electrical accidents, or otherwise. You need to start codifying every one of them. This means starting with risk assessments to see where those risks lie. Electrical problems and fire hazards can be caught and ruled out. But you should be creating the policy that makes it easier for employees to avoid these risks as well. Fire safety warnings, safety housekeeping to prevent clutter related accidents. These are examples of the kind of information you should be disseminating to employees often. That might mean training sessions, it might mean more signage around the workplace. You should also think about incentivizing the practice of highlighting potential safety concerns. Rewarding employees who create a safer workplace will cost you a lot less than having to deal with workers’ compensation and the kind of legal action you might face if you fail to create a safer workplace.
The Impact of the Environment
Risk doesn’t just come in the form of accident, however. The workplace itself can have a big impact on health and if you fail to address that impact, then you are just as liable for any damage that it causes. For instance, consider the kind of dangers of low lighting, not only in terms of tripping hazards but eyestrain and stress in those working with computers under such lights. Think about how comfortable their workplace is, too. If they’re sitting in seats with poor support, standing on hard surfaces or repeatedly using motorised tools, these are all risks of repetitive strain injury. Finding ways to help them work more ergonomically is crucial.
The Impact on the Workplace
Talking about health and safety doesn’t just mean considering everything that the employee needs, of course. As an employer, you have a big stake in the health of your team, too. In particular, the number of sickness absences and employer has to deal with will be a big part of your concerns. Being overzealous in stamping them out creates a workplace where people are afraid to be sick. However, if you’re not careful, you can also find yourself dealing with employees who are willing to push to the limits and take as many days off as they can get. These problem employees aren’t common, but it’s important to have a good policy in place to outline your expectations regarding sick absences and how going over the acceptable limit is dealt with. It’s not worth playing it safe if it means that some people are taking advantage, getting pay while they cause you significant productivity problems. Of course, the right policy also highlights the possibility of occupational therapy and adaptation to the workplace for those who are dealing with a longer term health concern than the occasional sick day off.
The Promotion of Wellbeing
If you want to limit the amount of genuine sick absences and create a healthier team, then you should use your access in the workplace to promote better wellbeing. For one, you can make health issues like fitness and diet the subject of briefings, highlighting possibilities for people to maintain their health outside the workplace. You can also offer options for maintaining it inside the workplace. This might mean providing healthier lunch options through the business or ensuring that people don’t spend all day sitting by switching up their responsibilities and asking them to do tasks that require a little more movement. Of course, the benefits an office can work, like gym access and coupons for healthy lunches, can also be a great help.
Preparing for Flu Season
If there’s one time of year that you simply can’t avoid the occasional absence, it is flu and cold season. In fact, if someone is genuinely sick, then you should be telling them to take the day off by all accounts. Otherwise, you just increase the risk of them bringing their sickness to work and spreading it to the whole workforce. But a focus on hygiene in the workplace, especially during this season is important. Provide bottles of hand sanitizer at every desk and keep up reminders to wash hands thoroughly in the bathroom. Most people want to keep from getting sick during flu season, but a gentle reminder can be a lot of help.
The Problem of Stress
Not all health issues are physical, of course. Mental health has just as much of an impact in the workplace if not more. You should be willing to help with any mental health issues, but stress is likely to be the one that you face most commonly. This is because you have the biggest influence on work-life balance, a lack of which is one of the greatest causes of stress in modern society. Make sure that no one employee is taking on a workload that they can’t handle. Ask them how they’re coping with their current responsibilities, stressing that they should be honest about them. Be careful about those who take on exceeding amounts of overtime as well. Many employees are happy to earn more money, but you should be willing to say ‘no’ to them occasionally.
Pregnancy and Maternity
The thought of pregnant members of the workforce alone will make a lot of employers sweat bullets. But half of the working population are women and a significant portion of them are going to want to start families, so you have to deal with the realities of it. Yes, pregnancy and maternity leave can cause some strain on the business. But this strain can be easily accommodated simply by preparing for it. Talk to that employee and find out from her if her doctor recommends any changes to the duties she takes care of. Starting as early as you can, ask if she can put together a list of her duties, so that it’s easier to find workarounds to cope with them while she’s not present, too. You don’t have to fear that you’re dealing with walking lawsuits. Most women will be happy to be pregnant and happy to know that work can help them ease through the process.
The Importance of Conversation
Talking with those pregnant employees is going to make it a lot easier to accommodate them, but talking, in general, is going to help in all the cases mentioned above. Not only will it keep people aware of risks and on the lookout for potential solutions. Talking about health is a sensitive matter that people have some difficulty with. Normalise the conversation so they’re a lot more at ease to talk to you about any problems they’re facing. Knowing them means you have more time to take action to work with them.
Health, safety, and sickness can certainly be a headache for employers. However, if you don’t address the realities of it all, then you’re more likely to get caught off guard with few options at your disposal. Keep the conversation going and make it easier to find the right solutions.