Most small workplaces fly under regulatory radar when it comes to safety and health. They're also hard to reach for training and consulting services.

So what's the safety culture like in small businesses? A recent study of 752 firms with less than 250 employees, conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, offers a glimpse at a seldom seen world.

First off, very few of these businesses (only 12 percent) rate themselves as "relatively dangerous" place to work. Most say they are relatively safe (55 percent) or about average when it comes to safety (33 percent).

That's because more than two-thirds of the small firms surveyed are in retail or service businesses. Only one in ten are in construction, and nine percent are manufacturers.

Given the general safe nature of most work in small businesses, it's not surprising that safety training, committees and use of consultants are not emphasized. Only six percent of the small firms surveyed had sent an employee to a safety seminar or conference in the past year. Only 12 percent have safety committees. And only 12 percent had used an outside source for safety consultation in the past five years.

A slight majority of small businesses do have written safety rules or policies (55 percent), and most (77 percent) conduct periodic safety inspections of their workplaces. Most also make safety training or safety awareness part of a new hire's job orientation (60 percent).

In most cases, safety responsibilities like conducting inspections are handled by the owner or operator of the business - that's the case in three-quarters of the small firms surveyed.

Not surprising, OSHA doesn't make much of an impression on small business owners. Only about one in four (26 percent) have been inspected by a compliance officer in the past five years. More than nine out of ten (95 percent) have never heard of OSHA's fast-growing and highly promoted Voluntary Protection Program. And less than one in five (16 percent) say they would request safety information or an on-site consultative visit from a government safety agency.

Security - no worries

Violence in the workplace, hyped regularly in the media, is no great concern of most small business owners/operators. Only four percent say workplace violence is the greatest on-the-job danger to employees. Checking the background of potential employees for a history of violent behavior is something slightly less than half (47 percent) will do.

Crime in general is not a big worry with small businesses. Most must consider themselves unlikely terrorist targets. Seventy percent of the businesses surveyed say customers have free access into their business; only 23 percent make customers pass a guard, receptionist desk, or locked door before they enter.

Almost two-thirds (65 percent), feel strongly that they do not want customers to face security screening.

And less than one in five small businesses (16 percent) use security cameras to increase employee safety.