Unforeseen Hazards
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Unforeseen hazards small business owners must watch out for

Pie Insurance recently conducted a comprehensive workplace safety survey of 1,034 small business owners, as defined by companies with 1-500 employees, which unveiled hazards that are keeping your clients on high alert.
Workplace hazards

Please note: the following article was developed for educational purposes only and covers a wide variety of general workplace safety concerns and considerations, some not relevant to workers’ compensation coverage. 

When discussing workplace safety, it’s natural to immediately think of common risks such as burns in a kitchen or machinery injuries on a construction site. However, there’s a spectrum of unseen and often underestimated dangers that can impact small business owners and their employees. 

Pie Insurance recently conducted a comprehensive workplace safety survey of 1,034 small business owners, as defined by companies with 1-500 employees, which unveiled hazards that are keeping your clients on high alert — importantly, many of these hazards are invisible. The report also spotlighted the critical need for heightened awareness and preparedness.

Beyond the Obvious: Natural Disasters and Security Threats

Natural disasters like fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes are scary. They also pose tangible risks to businesses but aren’t something we always think of when it comes to workplace safety. Our survey uncovered a growing concern among small business owners regarding climate-related events and the potential impact on workplace safety.

In addition, workplace violence and security threats such as shootings, intruders, assaults, and robberies emerged as significant concerns for business owners. These worst-case scenarios underscore the necessity of a comprehensive approach to workplace and employee safety and the importance of comprehensive emergency preparedness plans.

In the face of a natural disaster or security threat, proactive measures such as emergency response planning and safety training can possibly mitigate harm to workers and minimize disruptions to business operations. While these aren’t events we can predict or stop from affecting your clients’ businesses, you can raise awareness of being as prepared as possible to potentially reduce harm to their workers.

Mental Health: A Silent Workplace Threat

Our survey highlighted mental health as a silent-yet-pervasive workplace safety threat. In the survey, small business owners expressed concerns about the impact of mental health-related issues on worker safety and overall business performance.

Insights from individual respondents via an open ended question revealed a concerning trend, with many citing "mental health," "mental stress," and "anxiety" as significant workplace injuries and safety nightmares. In fact, 13% of small business owners identified mental stress as the most common workplace injury experienced at their businesses in the past 5 years–with this figure soaring to 22% among younger entrepreneurs aged 18 to 34.

Mental health-related injuries are not confined to specific industries and they affect businesses across a variety of sectors. Interestingly, those in less physical industries were actually more likely to point to mental health claims as the most common injury faced in their workplace. From media and arts (19%) and finance (24%) to research, engineering and IT (36%), small businesses are grappling with the repercussions of workplace stressors, underscoring the urgent need for proactive intervention.

No matter your client’s industry or size, work can trigger anxiety, stress and mental health issues. The World Health Organization estimates 12 billion working days are lost each year to depression and anxiety at a cost of $1 trillion in lost productivity. It goes without saying that having healthy and happy workers directly impacts any businesses’ financial success. 

In response to the growing prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace, organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offer valuable guidance for employers to ensure they’re taking actionable measures to reduce the potential for mental health injuries and claims in the workplace. 

Key focus areas for small business owners from OSHA include:

  • Awareness and Acknowledgment: Recognize and acknowledge the unique emotional burdens carried by employees, fostering a culture of understanding and support.
  • Identification of Stressors: Identify factors contributing to workplace stress and explore opportunities for adjustments or accommodations to alleviate these pressures.
  • Empathy and Open Dialogue: Create a safe and trusting environment where employees feel empowered to discuss their work-related stressors openly and without fear of judgment.
  • Access to Resources: Provide access to coping mechanisms, resilience-building resources, and supportive networks to help employees navigate mental health challenges effectively.

Business Owners Wished They Prioritized Safety

When asked: 

“What do you wish you would have known when you started your business??” 

30% of small business owners wished they would’ve known to prioritize employee safety more from the start. This, coupled with the fact that 50% of small business owners had at least one workplace injury over the past 5 years, indicates that workplace safety should never fall off your to-do list. 

Spring is here and there’s no better time for small businesses to do a refresh of safety best practices and emergency preparation. To help your clients better understand and address visible and unseen hazards, we’ve developed a spring cleaning safety checklist that can be used to potentially mitigate some risks. 

Our safety survey has illuminated the significance of considering both visible and invisible risks and the impact these factors can have on employee well-being and business success. Stay tuned for more uncovered safety trends over the next few months to share with your clients. In the meantime, we’re here to help them if they need to file a claim

Pie Insurance commissioned Yougov PLC to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1034 US small business owners, as defined by companies with 1-500 employees. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 27th February 2024.  The survey was carried out online.

Thanks for reading! This content is intended for educational purposes only and does not imply coverage under workers’ compensation or other insurance offered through Pie Insurance Services, Inc. Please consult an agent or attorney for any questions regarding applicability of insurance coverage in all circumstances.