Small but Mighty: Why Every Small Business Needs a Health and Safety Manual

No matter the size of your company, it is important to have health and safety procedures and protocols in place. This is called your Health and Safety Manual. Having a written version of your company’s policies and procedures is not only beneficial to employees, but also to members of the public who come in contact with or are nearby your work site.

There are several reasons which should motivate you to implement a proper health and safety manual for your business. A health and safety manual is not effective if it is not communicated with and accessible to your employees. They should be made aware of the importance of this manual.

Federal Requirements

While you are not federally required to have a written health and safety manual at your workplace, you are required to provide a safe work environment. On top of a safe environment, you are required to ensure that all employees are educated with the proper information and training to perform their jobs safely.

Alberta Requirements

While it is not a federal requirement to have a written manual, each Canadian province has its own OHS regulations in place. In Alberta, “employers with 20 or more workers must have a health and safety program that is developed in consultation with the joint worksite health and safety committee or representative if there is one”

In the case of small businesses with less than 20 employees, you are not required to have a program/manual. That being said, you still “must have documentation in place that meets the requirements established by the OHS legislation. This includes assessment and control of workplace hazards and an emergency response plan”, as stated by the Government of Alberta.

If your business has less than 20 employees, it is up to you to decide if it is worth it to implement an actual health and safety manual. As mentioned, there are several benefits to having an H&S manual, even though it is not an OHS requirement.

Employee Protection

Often, it is assumed that employees know how to be safe at work. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Employees need to be educated about safe work procedures and practices in their place of work. Even long-time employees need reminders/refreshers regarding proper practices and procedures. How can employees be expected to keep themselves and others safe if they are not taught how to properly do so?

Making Money

This is especially true for small businesses that compete for work with larger corporations or the government. If this is the case for your business, it will be helpful to be able to show that you have implemented proper safety protocols and have safety procedures in place. This is one way to differentiate yourself from the competition when competing for jobs, as many businesses feel more confident in working with a small business that prioritizes safety and can prove they do not cut corners to get the job done, no matter how small they may be.

Quick Action in Emergency

No matter how many safety procedures and protocols you have in place at your business, emergencies, and mistakes will always still occur. This is when a health and safety manual will be especially important. Being able to refer to your manual immediately in an emergency is likely to minimize and prevent injuries and damages from occurring. Therefore, it is crucial to include emergency procedures and protocols in the manual. All employees and people who enter a worksite should be made aware of these protocols/procedures and should be informed about where they can find a health and safety manual to refer to on-site.

Reputation and Image

Implementing a health and safety manual shows your employees and the public that your business takes health and safety seriously. As a small business that may be trying to grow, you want to be seen as a good corporate citizen, not only to satisfy your current employees and clients but to attract new hires. People need to feel that they are valued and cared for at their job, therefore providing a health and safety manual and communicating its importance is one step that can be taken to exemplify a positive work culture.

Health and safety of employers, employees, and the general public must not be taken lightly, no matter the size or significance of the company. Ideally, health and safety would be a top priority for every business owner. Unfortunately, there are cases where small business owners prioritize money over safety and view health and safety manuals merely as an unnecessary expense.

Ask yourself this – What is costlier to your small business? Spending time and money to create and implement a health and safety manual? Or, spending extra time and money on workplace incidents, putting your employees at risk, and gambling your company’s reputation?

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