Small Businesses Lack Adequate Safety Plans: Staples

Small businesses appear to be more at risk for safety concerns, with less than half saying they are prepared for severe emergencies.

The majority of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) said recent disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, haven’t led them to reassess their safety plans, even though natural disasters are the top safety concern among office employees, according to Staples' second annual workplace safety report, an online survey of more than 400 office workers and 400 decision makers at organizations of all sizes across the United States.

According to survey results, small businesses appear to be more at risk for safety concerns than medium-sized businesses, with less than half of small businesses saying they are prepared for severe emergencies or that safety plans are communicated regularly. In addition, 38 percent said their small business does not have safety training or drills.

On the brighter side, medium-sized businesses were more likely to have plans in place for emergencies such as evacuation (90 percent), shelter in place (46 percent) and building lockdown (56 percent), and those businesses also reported a wider array of safety equipment on site.

Consistent with last year’s results, the survey discovered significant discrepancies between safety perception and actual preparedness. Only half of employees said their company communicates a safety plan (a basic tenet of safety preparation).

However, three out of four (75 percent) said they believe their businesses take safety seriously. In emergency situations, nearly 25 percent of employees report their companies only communicate what to expect at the last minute.

One-third of respondents said they experience pain or discomfort at their workstation and a quarter reported numbness or tingling. Providing ergonomic equipment helps prevent workplace injuries, the report noted. The second foremost safety concern among survey respondents was trips, slips and falls.

One quarter of respondents do not have access to a secure server for data backup, suggesting small businesses should consider using a secure virtual private network (VPN), cloud storage platform and external hard drives.

To help prepare for emergencies and maintain a safe work environment, Staples recommends that in addition to an emergency evacuation plan, business should have enough food, water, flashlights and blankets to help sustain employees for up to three days. Items like masks and crank-powered radios can further help businesses be ready for any emergency.

A similar report from AT&T released about a year ago highlighted the perilous state of small-business disaster preparedness in the U.S. The company cited reports from the Insurance Information Institute, which found up to 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or man-made disaster never reopen, and an Ad Council survey that reported nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of small-business owners do not have an emergency plan in place for their business.