Creating a startup is as exciting as it is terrifying. Health and safety may seem at odds with this fast-paced world, but there is actually a lot that first-time entrepreneurs can gain from learning about health and safety. With around half a million startups being founded in the UK every year, there is a lot of potential for new businesses to start on the right foot if they treat health and safety seriously.
Many startups don’t know their racking safety from their floorplan
It’s a common problem; startups know their product and how they are going to market it, but they don’t know the first thing about workplace safety. One journalist found that most startups weren’t even aware that health and safety rules applied to them. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that if your business has more than five employees, you need to write a risk assessment and have a solid health and safety policy. If you plan on making your startup grow, you will quickly have more than five employees. It is a lot easier to implement strict health and safety in the early stages of your business (while your staff are still learning) than later on when a particular company culture and mentality has already developed.
Safety regulations and safety training: that’s what big companies do
Big companies spend a lot of time and effort making their companies as safe as possible, but it is not something we ever hear about. The only time we hear about a big company and the safety of their workplace is when they are being accused of being unsafe, as has been the case with Amazon. When it comes to safety, no news is good news. Google has received praise for the quality of its workplace, but what was not mentioned was its safety. This is implicit. People expect big businesses to be safe. Because of this, you might imagine that safety is a given, but it is not. Once upon a time, Google and Amazon were both hopeful tech startups. One of them invested in safety from the get-go and the other did not. Your startup is not Google-sized today, but with the right attitudes in place, it could be — and when you are in the spotlight, like Amazon and Google so often are, it pays to be the safer company…
It pays to be a safer business
There are many ways of looking at it, but the conclusion is the same: safer businesses are more profitable. The US government claims that businesses save $4 – $6 for every $1 they spend on safety. Then there are the things that money can’t quantify, like reputation and employee satisfaction. The bigger your business becomes, the more visible it will be and the more consumers and investors begin to notice cracks in your health and safety policies. It’s like blowing up a balloon with writing on it; the bigger the balloon, the easier it is to see what the words mean.
Employees value training. Nothing says “I respect your role in this company and I care about your development” like decent training. This truth is well understood, but what startups don’t realise enough is that the same is true of safety training. The quickest way to make your staff smarter, happier and more independent workers is to spend money on them via safety courses and safety training programmes. Sir Richard Branson, a hero to many startups, puts it best: “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so that they don’t want to.”
It’s great to be living in a time when more and more startups are being founded every year, but the sad truth is that many startups don’t last beyond five years. Things are improving and the UK remains a great place to build a startup, yet it is still something that should not be taken lightly. Spending time and money on health and safety is a great way of telling your employees, investors, consumers and yourself that you are the real deal. A startup that invests in health and safety is a startup that is here to stay.