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Getting Serious About Self-Storage Safety: Guidelines for a Facility Program and Manual

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By Jon Fesmire

It’s not enough to set up a self-storage operation with infrastructure, software and security systems in place. In any business, safety is of primary importance. Your company or individual facility surely has a safety manual, but how accurate and complete is it? How serious are you about site safety?

It’s an employer’s duty to keep his staff and customers safe while also protecting the business. That entails the creation of a safety manual specifically for your company. If you own several facilities, you can create a single manual that covers the concerns at all locations. Remember, a manual should be the backbone of your safety program. Follow these guidelines for creating both.

Write a Safety Manual

To begin writing your manual, walk around your facility and take detailed notes on all potentially dangerous work activities. Include situations in which employees use equipment (ladders), machinery (golf cart) or chemicals (cleaning products). Note instances when sharp objects might be used, such as box-cutters or pruning shears.

Next, write down the current procedures for using each of these tools or products. Be very detailed about your policies. You might also include some general safety guidelines and proper lifting techniques. Step-by-step guidance is warranted here to keep everyone safe. Employees who work with machines or tools must know how to use them correctly. If possible, provide a data sheet about proper tool usage. You can also include material safety-data sheets for each of the chemicals your company uses. These are generally available for free and downloadable from vendor or other safety-organization websites.

Your manual should also explain how to handle any accidents or other incidents that might occur on the property. For example, do you have procedures in place in case of an injury? What about an armed robbery? The priority should be to protect the lives of customers and employees. BusinessKnowHow.com offers a helpful list of rules employees should follow, for example, having two people present during business opening and closing and when making bank deposits. Make sure these rules are in your manual.

Finally, make sure your manual is accurate and compliant with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines and rules. This agency covers federal laws all businesses must follow. Check the small-business section of the website or call the assistance line if you need help determining which rules apply to your company.

OSHA can offer free guidance, but you might want to hire a safety consultant or, depending on the size of your business, a permanent safety officer. You can also designate a responsible employee to this role and request that he stays on top of new OSHA rules and changes.

Build a Safety Program

Your safety program will have several parts. Once you have your manual ready to go, it’s time for staff training. Every employee should receive safety training specific to the storage business. Each should be required to read the manual and pass a safety test. You might want to periodically quiz employees on safety procedures to keep them sharp.

Schedule regular safety inspections of chemicals used, equipment, tools and work spaces. If an inspection shows that equipment isn’t being maintained properly, chemicals aren’t stored where they belong, and so on, repeat the safety training.

Train employees in first-aid basics and CPR. This is more affordable and takes less time than you might think. A simple Google search should turn up several training centers in your area, many of which specialize in classes for businesses. Make sure the first-aid kit is easily accessible and everyone knows where to find it.

Establish solid communication procedures. Have a list of local emergency numbers handy. Of course, 911 is the big one, but the list should also include direct numbers to the local police and fire departments as well as poison control.

Install quality video cameras in the office and around your property. Consider installing a silent alarm system that’s easily accessible to employees. Also consider some kind of communications system so employees can quickly alert others if there’s an emergency on the property, and make sure everyone knows how to use it.

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