Ok, ok, we’ll admit it – health and safety isn’t the most glamourous of terms, and it’s not going to be at the forefront of SME owners minds. Perhaps the term conjures up images of people wearing layer upon layer of PPE, carrying clipboards and an endless amount of paperwork? However, it’s not something to be dismissive of as a business – get it wrong, and the consequences can be long-term and extremely expensive.
It’s no exaggeration when we say that SMEs are the backbone of the economy in Northern Ireland. NI has the highest concentration of small and medium sized businesses of anywhere in the UK, making up 99.9% of all businesses and generating around three quarters of all private sector income and employment.
Unfortunately, small and medium sized organisations suffer the cost of workplace injuries and ill health to a disproportionate extent. For a small business, absence from work can result in the financial burden of paying out statutory sick pay and potentially additional overtime to other workers; the potential loss of key skills that impact business continuity, reputation and/or the quality of product or service delivery. There’s the danger that with limited resources, or the loss of a key individual, a business might have to cease activity altogether. Even in cases where there’s no actual absence, but just poor health while people are still at work, it leads to lower productivity and probably a higher turnover of people, which again has a disproportionate impact on SMEs. Occupational health and safety is therefore a key issue for SMEs, and not just in terms of compliance.
Owning your own business is a constant balance of risk versus reward – will that investment or extra staff member provide the return you need in the right timeframe? This is to say nothing of the challenges associated with cashflow control, changing legislation or maintaining a growing reputation. Protecting against risk pays.
Running a small business has always meant taking calculated risks, indeed it’s often a key step on the path to growth. However, there are several other areas of risk which are harder for SME owners to control in today’s fast-moving business landscape. As we enter this new phase it is so important that businesses are afforded both flexibility and support to allow them to plan for their long-term sustainability. Businesses in turn, should recognise the need for adaptability, rethinking their current position to ensure they are best placed to maximise opportunities in what will be changing markets, trading circumstances and demands.
Regardless of size or sector, businesses run more effectively with systems and processes in place. Despite the fact that some SME owners view them as restrictive, introducing structure and best practice to your business actually increases innovation and freedom. How? By helping you improve efficiency, increase productivity and minimize risk. From this position of strength, it’s much easier to unlock creativity and innovate successfully – both vital in a post-coronavirus world.
Maintaining health and safety in the workplace is a legal requirement for businesses of all sizes, even those with 5 members of staff or less. You can read more about your legal responsibilities here. Unfortunately, smaller companies rarely have the resources, confidence or know-how necessary to handle being the ‘competent person’ themselves, while seeking professional help can be viewed as extremely costly. The good news for SMEs, however, is that raising the level of their health and safety performance doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time-consuming. As a small business ourselves, supporting other small and micro businesses is at the heart of what Astora Risk does. Our aim is to make safety advice and guidance accessible to everyone, no matter what stage of their business they’re at. That’s why we offer a FREE compliance check for new clients where we review the policies and arrangements you have in place and issue a report with recommendations for valuable improvements. Astora Risk’s aim is to help small businesses adopt a strategic approach to innovation. We provide clear frameworks to help you implement ideas, understand what works and what doesn’t, and maximize value.
We take the hassle out of health and safety, saving our clients time and energy, which could be better spent on your business ambitions. We also offer an all-in-one safety package which includes an annual audit, Covid19 assessment, health and safety policy review, named competent person AND 24/7 advice line – all from only £9 per week. You can view our packages here. Our focus is always on continual improvement, so it’s easy to make adjustments as your SME changes and matures, too.
Our end goal is to ensure that smaller organisations can build healthier and safer workplaces, and enjoy the benefits of that, instead of the disproportionate penalties of poor health and safety. The results will protect your business, as well as protecting employees. Improving health and safety results in less lost time, less staff turnover and more stability, allowing business owners to get on with their core purpose, of building and growing a sustainable business that is ready to face the challenges ahead. Who knows, maybe even the chance to enjoy a day off now and then to enjoy the fruits of your labour!