Health and safety, up until 2020, has been seen as either a grudge investment or something that’s a luxury for many businesses. The bare minimum is done because there’s either the consequence of a fine, resulting from inspection, or a voice within the business becomes annoying for decision-makers and the only way to stop it is to concede some budget to keep that voice occupied with a short-term project. Every successful business in this century will agree that shortcuts are not designed for achieving long-term prosperity, so why is it that so many of us default to relying on these?
Health and safety shortcuts in business…
Directors and business owners are under so much pressure from the inception of a startup. One person is required to wear seven different hats (Gazdecki, 2020), so think about how much his/her attention span is already reduced, when it comes to health and safety within the business. With funding constraints often facing the business in early days, it becomes tricky to balance when, where and to what extent it’s necessary to invest in this department.
Ignorance isn’t bliss!
The common error many small business founders make is to completely ignore health and safety when planning the venture, to begin with. It’s not something that can easily be retrofitted because once a company culture is developed on ignorance of this critical function, additional layers of resistance build inside the workforce. Even if financial investment must be delayed, evaluated by investors, or phased in, it should be clear from the word go that there’s a deliberate intention to build a safe working environment. (Hint: it will support efforts to attract and retain top talent as your small business grows.)
Prioritise, don’t procrastinate.
Prioritising actions according to resource availability and the market potential is not the same thing as procrastinating. Prioritising involves discipline, whereas procrastination is the act of expending energy away from discipline. It may not always be affordable or considered a high priority to work on safety and audit preparation if you haven’t even got your product into the market yet, but it’s important to have someone who can advise you on the optimal strategy for incorporating safety into your business.
Here’s what the experts won’t tell you:
If safety becomes a part of your business culture in your early days, there are several key benefits you’ll experience in the growth phase of your business, when your sole focus needs to be increasing production, not putting out fires:
- Reduced risk exposure
If every task and plan is created and executed with safety in mind, there is less risk of injuries and incidents slowing down your business. This includes areas like field research, logistics and production.
- Reduced insurance premiums
A safe working environment can bring your business insurance premiums well below the average rates for your industry and for your scale of business. This is strongly linked to your risk exposure levels, and can easily be determined through regular use of tools like Rapid Risk and Rapid Auditor.
- Increased production efficiency
Also linked to your risk exposure levels is your production efficiency. If production lines are run with safety in mind, fewer delays will occur. Be it for the timely servicing of equipment, machinery and vehicles, or swift management of any incidents that do take place, your customers’ expectations of quality and timely delivery don’t change. Rapid Auditor’s service alert function has helped businesses like Teqal take full advantage of this opportunity.
Growing pains scale with your growing business
Large businesses will feel large scale impact of shortcuts and oversight.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust a harsh light onto the potential outcomes of shortcuts in health and safety, for large businesses as well. As your client base grows, so too does the demand on your production volume and efficiency. If you’re a service provider, your quality of service is front and centre all the time.
Neglecting health and safety in a pre-growth phase communicates an acceptance that safety isn’t important during and after the growth phase either. Taking any focus off safety means that when the need for it arises, the business (every person and process it consists of) suddenly has no frame of reference to call upon, no direction, and no plan of action: your entire company becomes a deer caught in headlights. Worse yet is that neglect at a small scale, because of the acceptance of neglect that it communicates through the workforce, grows to become neglect at a large scale.
Opinions aside; here’s why it matters.
And we don’t have to tell you the impact of this, but to drive home the point, here it is:
Larger businesses are scrutinised more closely than smaller businesses because it’s a given that more resources are available. Neglected opportunities to address health and safety can rack up billions in fines and severely impact your bottom line, profitability and cash flows. What’s resounding is how easy it is to actually avoid this outcome.
Rapid Induct, for example, can roll out even the most complex induction and updated training programmes within days – you should check it out right here on our website if you want quick wins on training staff on health and safety policies (psst… we’ve made it even easier by making some industry-specific training templates available which you can use on the first day of your product trial…).
- Legal action
If fines aren’t bad enough, you’ve got to contend with legal action almost daily at a corporate level. No matter how much you try, you can’t put a financial value on human life. Families impacted through losses of life, loss of ability for a breadwinner to earn an income, and other personal damages have every right (and some have every resource required) to file a lawsuit against your business.
Unless you’ve invested in health and safety tools and knowledge inside your business, you’ve got no legs to stand on in such a case.
If you’re operating in South Africa, you’ll want to refer to Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1993. It covers the basic responsibilities of every employer, in terms of creating a safe and responsible working environment. The Rapid suite of products provides the ideal platform to communicate and inform your employees of these responsibilities and the tools to manage these requirements.
On top of the hard-hitting financial aspects, neglecting the occupational health, safety and general wellbeing of your workforce is going to wear away their morale and goodwill. In South Africa, this often leads to strike action undertaken by unions (which every employee has the right to join) or workers downing tools and communicating their demands with media outlets (which also leads to negative publicity, which is a totally different ballgame). Make the most of the opportunities you have, to really promote a culture that prioritises health and safety, or accept the reality that your entire business could be brought to a grinding halt again, and it won’t be because of the pandemic.
Quick wins and shortcuts are not the same thing
Businesses of every scale and industry are prone to confusing a quick win with a shortcut. A quick win is something that builds up to a long-term vision for success; it’s a stepping stone to create more opportunities and time to invest further. A shortcut is something usually implemented in a hurry, without any consideration for the financial, legal and operational consequences for the business the following week, month, quarter or year.
Quick wins are strategically sound, and we have a few ready to go right now that you can take advantage of:
- Rapid Access – updated COVID-19 work-ready site access screening checklists
- Rapid Auditor – daily audits and supporting checklists that all consider South African COVID-19 work readiness regulations (as provided by the South African government)
- Rapid Induct – this module comes standard as a part of Rapid Contractor and includes employer-perspective COVID-19 work readiness and risk assessment training templates that you customise as soon as you’re set up.
Feel free to browse through the rest of our website or contact us for more information about what’s on offer and how you can take advantage of it within a week of reading this article.
Gazdecki, A. 2020. 7 Roles Every Startup Founder Must Learn to Play. BiznessApps. Article online. Available at: https://www.biznessapps.com/blog/7-roles-every-startup-founder-must-learn-to-play/ [Accessed 5 June 2020].