How to keep your startup safe

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The past two decades have seen a huge boom in small business growth. With the advent of the Internet, individuals have more opportunities than ever to found their own enterprises. The founders tend to be younger than ever before as start-up costs get lower. To the safety-minded person, this phenomenon raises a number of concerns – the ease of business creation and the reduced amount of experience across the board could mean increased risk of injuries.

According to Forbes, between 80 and 90 percent of startups fail. The source attributes these failure rates to lack of preparation, money troubles, lack of consumer insight and a disinclination to learn from mistakes. If the vast majority of startups fail monetarily, it is a short step to the conclusion that their safety plans are probably out of order as well.

When the field is littered with the wrecks of failed startups and countless pitfalls, what is a new contender supposed to do? How can they ensure that safety isn't a problem as they move forward? By following the tips below, new startup owners can potentially turn their safety plan into one of the pillars that strengthens their future.

Startup Insurance
According to Business Insider, a new company needs insurance at every stage of its life, even when it is in its infancy. The source reported that a startup in its conceptual phase should consider obtaining insurance for general liability, business interruption, property coverage, and workers compensation and disability. Depending on your location, some or all of these may be required by law. From a safety standpoint, having workers compensation and disability is vital. Without this insurance, a mistake or accident could tank your business in the blink of an eye.

As your startup moves into a growth phase, there will be other types of insurance to consider, such as coverage of intellectual property. In this secondary phase, your business will probably begin to offer health benefits – not only will such coverage increase your employee retention rates, it will make your growing workforce healthier and smarter about safety issues.

Your safety plan
As you get your startup off the ground and insure it and its workforce, you'll want to develop a solid safety plan. This may seem like an unnecessary waste of time – especially if your company is only made up of a handful of people sitting around in a small office. However, having such materials prepared will ensure that you know what to do in the event of an emergency. It will also help out in the long run, as you won't have to rush to develop a plan as your business takes off. Even if you're busy with the other aspects of your venture, take the time to develop a thorough safety plan.

The basic elements of your plan will include training, equipment and risk-management guidelines. A good place to start is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Small Business Handbook. It's freely available on the Web and provides an immense amount of resources. Download a copy for easy searching and print another to have available in the office.

The types of safety equipment you have or require of your employees will depend greatly on the type of startup you have. Your office employees may require ergonomic office chairs for long hours at the computer. If you're running a kitchen or workshop, it may be prudent to require slip-resistant shoes. Any manufacturing venture will be subject to state and federal safety laws. Non-compliance could cost your company a lot of money and put you out of business before you have a chance to get going.

With those two aspects covered, training is the final key to your startup's safety success. Training programs put everything together in an easily understandable fashion. Make sure that everyone, from the senior manager to the new hire, is properly trained.

With so much other activity around the process of getting a startup off the ground, it's easy to ignore safety. But when you consider the cost of an injury and the failure rate of startups, safety begins to grow in importance. When you see that the National Safety Council has reported that the average total cost of a slip-and-fall injury is roughly $43,000, you'll realize how much potential business damage could result from one accident. The time and effort you put into your safety plan will pay off enormously should even one accident happen on the job – there's no reason not to invest in a solid safety plan. Failure to do so could cost you the entire business.

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