Do Small Business Owners Really Care About Safety?


Do Small Business Owners Really Care About Safety?

Small Business safety is essential, to achieve it we need to be aware of the barriers and proactively address them.

One of the volunteer roles that I feel very strongly about is my membership of the Queensland Workplace Health and Safety (WHSQ) Safety Leadership at Work Expert Reference Group. (It’s a long title I know).

I represent the view of Small Business in the group. I also operate as a regional representative (one other member lives in Mackay), so I get to combine several of my main interests.

A complaint I often receive is that “Small Businesses don’t have good enough safety systems”, or “They don’t care about small business safety”.  

Don’t stop reading.

I can almost hear some of you yawning as you read the word “SAFETY”, but please don’t stop reading just yet. That’s exactly what I want to address.

Almost every small business owner (and I suspect a lot of employees) associate the word “SAFETY” with piles of paper they have to fill out.

Much of the paperwork is written in a language they don’t understand, and regulations that don’t always make sense.

Safety is important, but we’ve made it complicated.

A survey in NSW revealed that many small businesses are dealing with up to 75 different safety regulations, and are spending about 5 hours per week filling out all those forms etc., just to make sure they are complying with the law.

While we have long known that small businesses wish for less red tape, what is not always realised is that SME owners say that the Health and Safety laws and regulations are the worst offender. 

Small Business owners simply don’t have the time to wade through mountains of paper, and that’s where the comments I referred to above originate. Because a Small Business doesn’t have a full-blown Safety System that is ISO 45001 compliant, the big customer assumes that they don’t care.

Actually, they do care about safety – at least the types of business owners that I work with do.

Small Business owners care about the safety and wellbeing of themselves and their team. But there are some barriers in the way.

The Small Business Safety Barriers

From my research, I have identified a number of these “ Safety Barriers” – issues that prevent Small Business and their Big Business (or Government) customers from seeing eye-to-eye on this critical topic.

  • Terminology and skills
  • Inconsistent application of rules
  • Actual commitment to safety

There is no room in this post to expand on those points, but note that “Cost” does not appear.

Cost is NOT a barrier, but only if it is contributing to safety. They object vociferously to spending time and money on things that don’t keep them safe.

“What Small Business owners really object to is having to spend time and money on things that don’t actually keep them safe”.

In July, I will have the opportunity to explore this topic further, as a Speaker at the NSW Regional Safety Conference in Newcastle. As I prepare my presentation, I would love to hear your views as a proactive Small Business owner.

How important is safety in your business, and what are the barriers that you find?

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