Owning a business means being prepared for anything. You might be fully insured, but your business is still vulnerable to many circumstances outside your control. The market is volatile, and unpredictable circumstances can upend your business model at any time. But that's not the only X-factor that can throw your business for a loop.
Physical emergencies can come out of nowhere and damage the structure or stock of a business. This includes fires, power outages, social unrest, or natural disasters and weather conditions. While none of these conditions are fully preventable, there are ways to prepare for eventualities and minimize the damage so you can get back on your feet quickly after an emergency.
1. Regularly Run Through the OSHA Employer Responsibility Checklist
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a convenient checklist of a business owner's responsibility to protect their employees and customers. It includes the responsibility to provide a workplace free of serious hazards and examine workplace conditions to ensure they conform to establish standards. Employees should have safe tools, and business owners should clearly mark any known hazards.
Managers should provide training both for standard job duties and for high-risk areas like work with hazardous chemicals. Be sure to post essential regulations where employees can see them. Make medical records and any reports of injuries available for the relevant authorities, and correct any violations quickly once notified by OSHA.
2. Develop (and Practice) Emergency Plans and Evacuations
OSHA provides a thorough handbook that helps employers to develop their fallback plans for emergency situations. It lays out OSHA's standards for safe evacuation plans and how to ensure your business complies. Before opening, you should identify all of your building's exit points and walk through them with your employees.
Once you set your emergency evacuation plans, it's important to make sure they're clearly posted around the building and that any newly-hired employee is briefed before beginning work.
Identifying and marking exits is a critical part of training because any employee might need to lead an emergency evacuation if they're on duty at the time. Remember school fire drills? Conducting an informal version with your team to ensure everyone has the opportunity to practice the evacuation process is a smart move.
Your insurance needs may change as your company grows and develops, so it's important to double-check your policy renewal every year. You might hire new employees, potentially start new services, and bring in new equipment. With every business change, there is a chance of taking on a liability that falls outside your current policy.
Getting ahead of any changes before they become an unpleasant surprise can make all the difference. For example, with proper workers' compensation coverage, you'll avoid personal liability for any extra costs, and you can provide your employees with the resources they need to recover after an injury at work.
4. Implement a Maintenance Schedule
One of the most common sources for physical emergencies at work isn't external—it's internal. Minor structural issues in the building or appliances can suddenly worsen and cause disruptions in a business—or worse, workplace injuries.
That's why it is important not to wait until problems make themselves known to repair them. You can schedule routine maintenance by specialists to examine your facilities and catch problems early. This practice will also keep you ahead of business inspectors who might levy fines if they catch code violations.
5. Sign Up for Extreme Weather Alerts
Unfortunately, business owners have no way to avert damage caused by fires, storms, or other extreme weather events. However, you can still protect your business from the impact of the disaster.
By signing up for real-time weather alerts on your phone, you'll get a warning. You can decide to close up earlier to keep your employees out of harm's way and set up a protective gear around your location to minimize the structural damage.
No Better Protection Than Preparation
Every business is going to encounter some unexpected setbacks, but not all setbacks are unavoidable. These tactics help set you up for success before you open your doors. They can secure your business, protect your investments, and make your employees feel safer in the long run.