Failing to comply with safety regulations can be costly. For instance, in February 2018 in the State of California alone, OSHA issued citations to seven different companies for initial penalties of $40,000 or more, including one case for over $76,000. The average penalty is currently $12,934 per violation for serious violations, other-than-serious posting requirements, and failure to abate, while willful or repeated violations cost $129,336 per violation.
If you’re a startup, it may seem like this can’t happen to you, but that impression would be wrong. New businesses often aren’t familiar with safety regulations and wrongly assume they’re not applicable to them. No matter how long you’ve been in business, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself against potential liability risks. Here are three simple steps you can take to protect yourself against liability for safety violations.
Get Appropriate Insurance and Legal Counsel
One of the most fundamental steps you should take to reduce your risk is to get appropriate insurance. All businesses with employees are required by the federal government to carry workers compensation, disability and unemployment insurance, as the Small Business Administration explains. Depending on the nature of your business, you may also benefit from additional types of insurance, such as general liability insurance, which protects you and your employees from damages incurred by bodily injury, or special liability insurance, which can protect you if you work in an industry with special risks.
Along with getting insurance, it’s advisable to discuss your liability risks with a competent legal council. A good business attorney can help you identify what types of potential risks you face, which can help you in selecting appropriate insurance and taking other preemptive steps. For instance, manufacturing operations sometimes have to worry about worker exposure to asbestos, making it necessary to consult a mesothelioma lawyer. Setting up a free consultation with an attorney who specializes in this area can help you avoid expensive lawsuits down the road.
Conduct Safety Inspections
Another essential step to take to protect yourself from liability is to schedule and conduct regular safety inspections. Safety inspections will help you prevent incidents that could expose you to risk. In the event that there is an incident, safety inspections will also help you demonstrate that you did your due diligence to protect your workers.
OSHA’s Small Business Handbook includes self-inspection checklists that cover areas such as what signs you need to post, what you can do to prevent common injuries such as falls, and what precautions you should take if your company deals with hazardous materials such as dangerous chemicals or asbestos. If you need help doing a self-inspection, OSHA provides small businesses with the opportunity to request a free and confidential on-site consultation from a certified expert.
Provide Safety Training and Equipment
One thing an OSHA consultant can advise you on is what type of safety training program you should implement to prevent on-site injuries. Employees should be trained to understand any potential hazards they face and how to avoid them. Training employees is key for guaranteeing their safety and a secure workplace. For instance, all workers should be taught how to avoid falls. Workers who are new on the job or learning a new skill set are especially at risk and need close supervision during the training process. Supervisors also need training to recognize potential hazards and how to avoid them. A best practice is to designate a safety supervisor to coordinate and oversee all safety training.
An important part of safety training is learning to use personal protective equipment properly. Protective equipment can include items such as hard hats, goggles, earplugs, vests, gloves and shoes. Workers should know when such equipment is necessary, what to use, how to use it and how to maintain it. Employers are responsible for making sure necessary safety equipment is provided and maintained in good working condition.
Getting appropriate insurance and legal counsel, conducting regular safety inspections and providing safety training and equipment are three vital steps for implementing an effective safety program. Following these steps will help keep your workers safe and help protect your business from expensive lawsuits and fines.