Attention to health and safety fuels small business growth: WSPS

Small Business Week runs Oct 18 – 24 and small business owners of all sizes are realizing that one of the simplest and most effective ways to manage risk and fuel growth is to invest in creating a healthy and safe workplace, according to Ontario's Workplace Safety and Prevention Services.
Under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers with more than five workers are required to take measures to ensure a safe workplace. This includes developing and reviewing health and safety policies; communicating employer and employee responsibilities; having a health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee perform inspections and audit the health and safety program; identifying, controlling and informing workers of hazards; and providing training and equipment to enable employees to work safely at all times.

The business advantages of integrating health and safety are "too numerous to ignore," said WSPS.

Creating a healthy and safe workplace is an important part of any risk management strategy. A single incident can deal a devastating blow to a small business. If it is a serious workplace injury, the Ministry of Labour will investigate. A fire will bring the fire marshall to the door. And if violence erupts in a workplace or a motor vehicle incident occurs, police will get involved. Worse than all of the negative attention, is the weight of knowing that a preventable incident has injured or negatively impacted colleagues, family, friends, and the community, said WSPS.

Businesses that create a culture of health and safety have been shown to experience higher engagement levels, fewer injuries and absences, higher productivity and greater financial results, and according to McKinsey & Company, at least 50 per cent of a business's financial success is driven by health and safety.

The 2013-14 Staying@Work study completed by Towers Watson revealed a strong link between highly effective health strategies and human capital and financial results.

Highly effective companies experienced:
•one-half the rate of voluntary turnover
•1.2 fewer days of unplanned absence per employee, per year
•shorter disability durations
•two per cent fewer cases of short-term disability.

Other studies have shown that healthy and safe businesses experience 20 per cent more revenue per employee and four per cent higher profit margin, said WSPS.

According to 2013 data from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, the average benefit cost per lost-time claim in Ontario, including administration expenses, totalled $50,224. And that doesn't take into account indirect costs such as finding and training replacement staff, unplanned overtime and extra wages, equipment damage and possible fines and penalties. These additional losses can easily add up to more than four times the direct cost of the incident, said WSPS.

"Creating a health and safety program doesn't have to be complicated. Simple steps can make a difference," said Elizabeth Mills, president and CEO of WSPS. "Management walkabouts, quick staff meetings, handwritten memos, notes in a log book, and staff safety champions are all viable strategies that demonstrate diligence if an inspector calls."