With the U.S. unemployment rate hovering at 4.4 percent, small businesses looking to grow may have a harder time finding talent to fill open positions. But small business owners may be underselling an important factor that could give them an edge when recruiting new talent: Workplace safety.
The safety of the work environment was among the top criteria employees consider when evaluating a new job offer, according to a new EMPLOYERS® survey of 1,011 U.S. small business employees. It ranked behind expected criteria such as compensation, the nature of the work, and proximity to home, but ahead of factors such as the quality of potential coworkers and opportunities for professional growth.
The survey also found that while most (89 percent) small business employees believe their employers make workplace safety a high priority, one out of 10 disagree. People who work at businesses that employ 86 to 100 people were more likely to say their employer prioritizes workplace safety (96 percent), compared to people who work at micro-businesses that have one to nine employees (87 percent).
Employees of certified women-owned business were also more likely to believe their employer places an extremely high priority on workplace safety (62 percent). Women-owned-businesses are more likely than the average small business to provide workplace safety training once a year.
“In today’s tight labor market, it’s important that small businesses, which employ more than half of the American workforce, recognize safety of the work environment is a top priority for employees,” said David Quezada, Vice President of Loss Control at EMPLOYERS. “One way for employers to attract and retain valued talent is to have and communicate a commitment to workplace safety. By fostering a safe work environment, small businesses can protect and retain their most valuable asset, their employees.”
The survey also explored the comfort level small business employees have addressing workplace safety concerns with management. More than half of employees (52 percent) said they would report concerns to the business owner and nearly half (48 percent) said they would speak with a direct supervisor. Women said they are more comfortable reporting work-related safety issues (51 percent) than men (43 percent).
While workplace safety is a priority for many small businesses, the survey reveals that more can be done to foster safe work environments. The EMPLOYERS survey found:
- 17 percent of all small business employees surveyed say they never receive workplace safety training
- 25 percent of micro-businesses employees (9 or fewer employees), say they never receive workplace safety training
- 40 percent of small business employees say their employer does not display OSHA signage prominently or they are not sure if it is displayed
Creating A Culture of Workplace Safety
“Creating a culture of workplace safety starts at the top,” Quezada said. “Business owners and management need to set an example by offering regular training and displaying proper safety signage, as well as by being open to their employees who report concerns. Yet with the need for small business owners to wear many hats, and without the luxury of dedicated risk professionals on staff, many could benefit from additional resources to help them
Small business owners can take the following steps to create a culture of workplace safety that protects their workers and may provide a recruiting advantage:
- Identify and assess potential hazards: Business owners should take the time to recognize potential hazards in the work environment and develop policies and procedures to ensure employees can do their jobs safely.
- Lead by example: It is important to not only communicate safety goals to everyone within the company, but for business owners to set the model example for others to follow.
- Train and educate regularly: Take the time to train new employees during orientation and set up regular trainings for all employees throughout the year. It is also a good practice to include workplace safety policies in employee handbooks and display safety posters throughout the workplace to remind employees about the business’ safety priorities and procedures.
- Enforce and evaluate: Conduct regular workplace safety audits, safety meetings and annual safety training sessions to enforce regulations and keep safety top of mind for employees.