Small Business Owners Concerned About Workplace Safety

Thirty-five percent of survey respondents to an Employers survey said they expect to spend the most time addressing workplace safety risks in 2014.

Keeping employees safe at work is a top concern for small business owners, according to a survey sponsored by Employers, a small business insurance specialist.

Workplace safety risks were cited by 35 percent of respondents as the source of greatest worry and the area where small business owners expect to dedicate most of their attention this year, more than professional liability risks (26 percent), cyber-security risks (25 percent), natural disaster risks (10 percent) and terrorism risks.

Thirty-five percent of survey respondents said they expect to spend the most time addressing workplace safety risks in 2014, followed by professional liability and cyber-security.

"Small business owners realize they have to protect their most valuable assets – their employees," Stephen Festa, Employers chief operating officer, said in a statement. "Employee injuries can carry a significant cost, not only in terms of medical and workers’ compensation expenses, but also in terms of lost productivity and potentially lower workplace morale."

Small business owners felt least prepared to address acts of violence or fires or explosions that occur at the workplace.

Slips, trips and falls account for nearly a quarter of all nonfatal workplace injuries and 15 percent of all fatal workplace injuries that occur in the private sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other common causes of workplace injuries that small business owners said they are prepared to handle include motor vehicle accidents (12 percent) and employees coming into harmful contact with objects and equipment (12 percent).

"We wanted to see how prepared small business owners believe they are for the types of injuries that are most common in the workplace, or if they were placing too much emphasis on events that are unlikely to occur," Festa continued. "We were relieved to find that the most common type of injuries – slips, trips and falls – was cited most often. However, we were surprised that almost four out of five small business owners did not claim to be most prepared for them."

Interviews were completed with a nationally representative sample of 502 small businesses that have fewer than 100 employees. Fieldwork was conducted in November 2013, according to the report.

The company offers several tips to small business owners looking to improve workplace safety, including conducting a safety evaluation, developing safety standards and practices, training employees and creating a general atmosphere of safety culture.

"Publicly congratulate work teams that excel at safety practices and individuals who suggest improvements," the company noted on its Agents Forum blog. "Encourage employees to alert one another if they notice a safety hazard. Be sure that no employee fears reprisal for pointing out potential problems."