According to an article in the Australian Financial Review on 16 February 2010 (only available online through subscription):
“The isolation of working at home or in a small shop or factory by themselves can wear down many in the small and medium enterprise sector. In the most severe cases, it can lead to depression and cause major problems for their family and business.”
Andrew Griffiths provides a quote that illustrates well the work/life conflict in the small business sector:
“When times were good we told them not to spend too much on their lifestyle in case things didn’t last. But now the message is, don’t fall too much into despair. It’s important they find someone they can speak to about their business.”
Too many business “gurus” fail to see that many of the stressors in small business illustrates inadequate planning at the concept stage for the business. There are physical, mental and social limits to our own welfare and those of our families. To not incorporate these limits into the structure of the business, is negligent.
There is a lot of time spent on ameliorating problems that should not have existed, at least to the extent they have, in the first place. Small business owners (safety consultants included) often see poor health, poor family life and isolation as the “inevitable” consequences of starting a business. They are not.
If health and safety were considered in the conceptual phase of small business, some entrepreneurs may think twice about their business aims, or, at least, their business models. Some may choose not to pursue their idea at all or at that time.
The article confuses many issues that are collectively similar but may require difference approaches to mitigate or eliminate. The author, Jason Clout, mentions depression, long hours, isolation, mental health. Surprisingly stress is only mentioned in the title “Isolated operators feel the stress”.
The Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia’s (COSBOA) CEO, Jaye Radisich, discusses the mental heath issues in the AFR article but there are no safety-related resources available on the COSBOA website and no links to OHS regulators. Radisich says that poor mental health of the small business operator can have a devastating effect of the company as a whole. A call has been placed to COSBOA for further information.
The AFR article illustrates the continuing need for a coordinated program to improve health and safety in all businesses, regardless of size. The article also illustrates that OHS or, specifically, mental health is rarely factored in when a business is being considered. The necessity for inclusion at this early stage needs to be pushed by OHS regulators, business registration authorities, government advisory services for business, risk management organisation and the safety profession generally.
It seems we are too often focused on fixing existing problems rather that designing future hazards out.