Workplace safety 101 for small businesses

Regardless of how busy a business owner may be, establishing a proper health and safety program for its employees should always be a top priority

“I have so much to do, and so many things to know… some days health and safety slips down my list of priorities”

Sound familiar? Small business owners wear many hats every day, and are often required to be experts in everything from payroll to technology to purchasing. Workplace safety may feel like uncharted territory for a new business owner or manager, but help is available from WorkSafeBC.

“We have a wide range of information and documents available at as well as direct assistance through our Small Business Services Liaison team, and our partnership with Small Business BC,” says Glen McIntosh, manager, new and young workers and small business. “We hope our resources can make a difference for employers, and provide them with step-by-step tools to keep workplace safety at the front of everyone’s minds.”

WorkSafeBC partners with employers and workers to promote workplace health and safety, and to prevent illness and injury on the job. All employers—no matter how big or small—have a legal requirement to provide an occupational health and safety program for their workers.

Employers with less than 20 workers may question the importance of building a comprehensive health and safety plan for the workplace. Aside from the well-being of your workers, workplace incidents can be very costly. McIntosh says that 50 per cent of workplace incidents are due to:

1. Slips, trips and falls
2. Struck by an object
3. Musculoskeletal injuries (e.g. tears, sprains, pulls)

To help support the health and safety needs of small and micro businesses, WorkSafeBC’s recently redesigned website has a special web section just for small business owners, that includes valuable resources and publications to help them get started:

Small business primer: A guide to WorkSafeBC
Small Business Health & Safety Log Book
Small Business and WorkSafeBC
What do I get for my WorkSafeBC coverage? (video)

Employers can also look to WorkSafeBC for resources to mitigate injuries related to employee workstation ergonomics. Workers can be involved in this process before injury occurs, by sharing ideas to minimize the physical stress of tasks, and looking to change ineffective or unsafe work practices. Collaborating with workers leads to improved engagement and long-term solutions in improving work habits, and has a variety of resources to help address safety issues around ergonomics:

Push/Pull/Carry Calculator and Lift/Lower Calculator
How to Make Your Computer Workstation Fit You
Making it Right: Preventing Musculoskeletal Injuries (MSIs) in Manufacturing
Back Talk: An Owner’s Manual for Backs

Do all small businesses need to register for WorkSafeBC insurance?

Having the correct insurance coverage is another key requirement for running a small business.

Generally, you need coverage if you:
• Employ and pay workers on a regular, casual or contract basis
• As a homeowner, hire an individual to work in or around your home for a certain period of time (e.g., child care, lawn services, etc.)
• Come from another province or country to do work in B.C.
• Work in the commercial fishing or trucking industries

To someone less experienced, it can seem daunting, but WorkSafeBC can help with this as well. If you hire contractors to work for your business on a casual, part-time, or full-time basis, there could be different insurance coverage requirements. McIntosh recommends a quick call to the Small Business Services Liaison team at 1-855-214-5438: “They can determine very quickly if your business needs to be registered.”