Health and Safety for Small Business

By Carola Mittag

Posted Jul 15th, 2019 in Tips & News

Health and Safety for Small Business

Workplace injuries and fatalities tend to occur more often in smaller businesses


  • 1.12 million (95%) of Canadian workplaces employ fewer than 50 employees.
  • Small business managers are likely to see workplace incidents as a result of factors outside their control, and
    • They regularly underestimate the dangerousness of the work activities;
    • They often downplay risks; and
    • Both owners and workers accept hazards as part of the job.

They have much to lose …

  • Small businesses must pay particular attention to occupational health and safety because only a single incident can put them out of business.
    • It affects their reputation; clients are hesitant to hire them and, other companies reluctant to work with them.
    • In the age of social media, it takes just one picture on Facebook of a worker injured or killed because of employer negligence. At the end of the day, it’s the employer’s name that will be splashed all over the newspaper and in court.

Small business owners may be unaware of the specific laws and regulations they are expected to comply with. Health and safety can be overwhelming for small business owners who often don’t even know where to start. *Note: A 6-inch binder, sitting on a shelf, is not a health and safety program!

Cost is an often-cited barrier to occupational health and safety for small businesses. This is reasonable, given the many demands they face, including trying to stay financially viable. However, having a health and safety program is a much cheaper alternative to not having one. A safety program can reduce turnover, sick days, improve productivity and retain employees. Workplace incidents and accidents can cause permanent business shutdown.

Your business is unique …

Different industries have different types of occupational health and safety risk factors, so targeting the information relevant to their sectors is important.

WSG would far sooner have a company call for information on what might be needed to complete a job safely and in compliance with legislation, than provide reactive advice and training after a tragedy has occurred.

One way to reduce anxiety (and sleeplessness) is for small business owners to not take it all on themselves, especially since legislation and regulations are constantly changing. What is important is that owners not be afraid to ask questions — before it’s too late.

Developing an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Program
Often small business owners address safety issues verbally. To show due diligence, a safety program must be documented. This checklist will help you develop an OHS program.

1. Health and Safety Policy
  • Make sure to have a written policy statement.
 2. Supervisors and workers know and understand their OHS responsibilities
  • OHS roles and responsibilities should be outlined within the policy statement.
 3. Hazards are identified
  • Make a comprehensive list of hazards in your workplace.
4. Hazards are controlled
  • Conduct regular job hazard analyses;
  •  Implement job-specific safe work procedures;
  • Have a risk assessment rating for identified hazards.

5. Workers have the training and supervision to perform their jobs safely
  • Provide a new worker orientation checklist;
  • Have worker training records, e.g. as for WHMIS and supervisor safety training.
 6. OHS issues are discussed regularly with workers
  • Safety talks should be written and compiled in a safety talk logbook.
7. All workplace equipment, machinery and tools are checked, serviced and maintained regularly
  • Maintenance checklists, pre-shift inspection checklists and procedure checklists should be posted.
8. Are the following in place:
  • Emergency procedures posted at the work site;
  • First aid kits;
  • First aid logbook to track injuries and ensure kit is replenished;
  • An injury reporting procedure;
  • Injury report form.
9. Are investigation procedures in place
  • Along with a policy and procedure, there must be an investigation report form.
10.Are the OHS program and records maintained and reviewed?
  • Inspection reports and review logs are important documents to have on hand.

WSG is in the business of safety, tailoring information, designing and managing safety programs for companies of all types and sizes. By conducting audits to help companies have fewer incidents, we know how to close the gaps between existing and required compliance needs.

Just like developing a business plan, owners should take the time to develop a safety plan as part of doing business. They need to understand that ultimately, the risk belongs to them.

Get an evaluation of your workplace and get on track with safety and compliance.

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