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When Nationwide Loss Control Services associates evaluate a business, the easiest way to find out if they are prepared for an emergency is simple: Just ask. A business that is prepared will have an answer. They will have a plan and documented proof that they have put effort and research into protecting their business when the unexpected occurs. 

Grant Hilton, AU, ARM, CFPS, a Nationwide Loss Control Services Consultant, says most businesses have one of three approaches to safety. Some may be apathetic and without the understanding of the impact safety can have on their business. Others may be aware of requirements like OSHA guidelines or industry-specific standards, but they only perform the minimum necessary to follow the rules. But some business owners see the true value in safety. They not only follow the rules, but they create a safety culture within their company to ensure that their staff knows the importance of their actions. 

Not every business is prepared, though. In Hilton’s experience, the biggest hurdle is the misconception that it takes too much money and time to create an emergency plan. But with the amount of resources available, it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. From government websites like FEMA, to non-profit organizations like the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), free materials are right at your fingertips. Even Nationwide's Loss Control Services team can provide guidance to help create a plan.

One way to get started is to create a list of the hazards to your business. Start with natural disasters such as lightning storms or hurricanes. Think about situations where intentional harm could occur like robbery or arson. Then consider accidental incidents such as a chemical spill or an employee injury. When you begin by listing the hazards, you can examine each one to identify the best course of action if it occurs. 

Office safety culture

There is always a need to plan for catastrophic emergencies, but it’s important to also be prepared for the everyday obstacles. This can include injuries such as falls or being struck by objects, which are regularly in the top ten leading injuries in the workplace. Even if a handbook helps guide staff on the best practices for incidents, it’s creating a safety culture that helps prevent these things from happening in the first place.

This type of behavior is best instituted when modeled at management and ownership levels. Leading by example encourages employees to follow suit. Your entire organization should put safety first and know that each and every person plays an important part. 

"It's not enough to plan, you have to practice," says Hilton. For every business, there are different hazards and different ways to prepare. Once a plan is created, practice activities like lockdown drills, mock recalls of products, and routine training keep the staff informed and involved. Going through the motions of how to respond will help decide if the plan is effective and identify where changes may need to be made. 

Communication and checklists

"Everybody needs to have a role," Hilton adds. When creating your plan for workplace safety, it's important that every employee knows how to respond to emergencies. Assigning responsibilities not only keeps everyone involved, it ensures that the tasks at hand are not all relying on one person. 

Encourage your staff to have a voice and give them a forum to use it. Provide open discussions, suggestion boxes and opportunities for feedback. By showing you value their feedback, they will be more likely to speak up when they see a need for change. This also helps to improve work practices in every corner of your business. If storage is poorly stocked, an employee that regularly handles it can propose new ways to prevent injuries.

Check out Nationwide's small business resources for more information on how you can help you ensure a healthy and safe workplace in environment.

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