Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Choosing Chemicals Can Be a Deadly Decision

Choosing Chemicals Can Be a Deadly Decision

On August 21, 2015, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reported that “exposure to hydrofluoric acid (HF) causes corrosive chemical burns and potentially fatal systemic toxicity.” They referred to examples in Washington State where “during 2001-2013 there was a fatality associated with a truck wash worker who ingested the substance, along with 48 occupational cases. Among those injured, seven were hospitalized, two required surgery.”

Is this information really significant for car washers? Here are some of the headlines that were circulating a few days after the report was released:

·    The NY Times - Car wash chemical dangerous to workers

·    The Spokesman-Review - Car wash chemical a danger to workers

·    Kurt Niland - CDC finds High Rate Of Chemical burns Among Carwash Workers

·    Business Examiner Media Group - Workers burned by car wash chemicals

There is a common theme in all of these headlines; they all refer to car washes! However, if you read the report, it also names truck drivers, auto detailers and truck washes. But what industry did the media pick up on? Car washes.

Most of us know this is not a new topic. Much has been written over the years about HF and ABF (Ammonium bifluoride). Both of these chemicals are very dangerous, causing many car wash owners to discontinue using these products. Unfortunately these chemicals still exists in the industry for cleaning wheels and tunnel walls.

Here are a few reminders of what to be aware of when handling these products:

·    Skin contact is often undetected until after the injury has occurred, since the chemicals tend to penetrate the skin quickly and attacks the bones. This delays any sense of pain, giving the effected worker the illusion that nothing is wrong.  By the time they feel the consequences of being exposed to the chemical, the damage has already occurred.

·    If HF is used in a spray form, it can be accidently ingested and can cause internal burns.

·    An alert circulated by the Oregon OSHA division in May of 2013 stated that “an HF burn covering less than two percent of your body can kill you.”

There are a few precautions you can take if you are using HF or similar chemicals:

·    Train all employees regarding the hazards associated with these chemicals

·    Wear goggles and face shields (not glasses)

·    Wear an apron approved for use with corrosive chemicals

·    Wear neoprene and nitrile gloves

·    Wear appropriate shoes (no sneakers)

·    Use engineering and administrative controls to limit exposure

·    Consider using equally effective alternative products for HF and ABF

Some first aid ideas if someone comes in contact with these chemicals:

·         In the event an employee’s skin is exposed, immediately apply 15 minutes of continuous water flow to the affected area.

·         As soon as possible, transport the exposed employee to a medical facility. Be sure to take a copy of the MSDS/SDS document with you.

·         If you have a trained first aid person available, they should apply calcium gluconate gel for skin burns. This should help limit the tissue damage. If the injury is eye related, they can also apply sterile one percent calcium gluconate in saline drops.

After reading this blog, many may believe that they don’t have this exposure. I implore you to be sure you read every chemical label to be sure you know exactly what you’re up against. Some years ago, I did a survey at a car wash and found an unmarked pail sitting in the car wash tunnel. The manager explained that they used this cleaner for the wash tunnel walls. We found the original pail that the chemical came from and it was labeled simply, wall cleaner. After reading the label more carefully we learned it had HF as an ingredient. The manager was shocked!

There is no doubt that these chemicals are great cleaning products at the wash. They’re also the most deadly! Don’t sacrifice your employees’ safety; make the smart decision and look for alternatives. Finally, be sure to read all chemical labels and avoid unwelcomed surprises. Your chemical suppliers are a great reference, make sure you use them!

For reference, these are the new pictograms you should be looking out for:

Remember, A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Prevent Death and Dismemberment at the Wash

Prevent Death and Dismemberment at the Wash

Can you imagine what it’s like to tell a family that their son or daughter has lost a limb or been killed? As an owner of a Car Wash, you may have to have that conversation someday. I know you’ll agree that you would do anything in your power to prevent such a tragedy.
If you own a business, you have a responsibility to keep your employees safe. Now ask yourself, have you done all you can to prevent injuries to your employees, as well as your customers? If you answered “yes”, you could be leaving yourself and your business open to a possible disaster. Safety is an ongoing process that requires constant analysis. You should continually evaluate your organizations safety procedures and implement changes and updates when a new best practice arises.

When evaluating and developing your safety plan, the best place to start is identifying the most present and dangerous exposure that could jeopardize the safety of your customers and employees. Once the exposure is identified, you can develop a pro-active plan to mitigate or eliminate the factors that most contribute to that risk.
For most washes, the greatest risk comes from the hazards associated with moving vehicles on the property. Generally, this risk is the worst when a vehicle suddenly accelerates, whether due to mechanical problems or human error.
Recently, in a two-week period, there were reports of driving related catastrophes at two unrelated carwashes. One incident resulted in an employee losing a limb; the other resulted in death.

You may be surprised to learn that both of the previously mentioned incidents occurred with a customer behind the wheel. In the car wash industry, we tend to focus on developing safety procedures when our employees have control of a vehicle, but often forget about the dangers associated with a customer driving their own car. Many full-service washes have meticulous procedures to reduce these extreme risks, but exterior washes are not immune to these dangers either.
The following are some ideas that you may want to consider at your locations:

1.       Towel Washing Operations:

a.       Often times, there are part-time employees working in this section. Most washes spend some time reviewing how to hold the towels, the proper clothing to wear and general instructions on how to avoid damaging customer cars. However, training should also include understanding the dangers associated with vehicles moving through the tunnel. Most importantly, employees must be held accountable anytime they are observed deviating from this training.

b.      Evaluate the configuration of your exit area. Some specific areas to focus on are: 1. the distance from the end of the conveyor to the employee station 2. Driving patterns that may direct traffic towards employees 3. Safe areas for employees away from exiting traffic 4. Procedures to recognize and address the added exposure of busy days vs. slow days.

c.       Consider and address the negative impacts caused by distractions while driving. There should be signs posted prohibiting the use of cell phones and other hand held devices while operating a vehicle. You should have a protocol in place for when a customer appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Employees should always make sure the customer is comfortable driving on the property before allowing them to enter potentially dangerous areas. The main focus is to establish a procedure to determine whether a customer driving the vehicle will maintain a safe environment, and if not, creating a process to alleviate the potential danger.

d.      You may want to consider using a visual aid to alert customers when the wash cycle is done. Many washes currently deploy an audio alert, such as a horn, that can surprise a driver and cause potentially dangerous situations. A visual aid can help keep the driver focused on the environment near the exit and remain alert of potential hazards. A simple Stop & Go light could potentially save a life.

e.      Be sure that employees are wearing bright colored clothing. These outfits will keep drivers more alert and aware of their surroundings.

f.        Make note of where the sun shines during the day. Employees should be aware of certain times when a customer exiting the wash may have their vision impaired by glare.

g.       Be sure to implement, and enforce, a policy forbidding the employees use of headphones while working. Their senses should be free of as many distractions as possible.
2.       Detailing Operations:

a.       When backing vehicles out of the bay, be sure to deploy a spotter. Make sure the spotter can be seen by the driver and is aware of the traffic pattern.

b.      Employees should never stand directly in front of, or behind, a vehicle.

c.       Make sure employees use their horn when backing out of the bay to alert other operators of the moving vehicle.

It can be difficult to identify some of the causes of incidents involving moving cars. However, the best defense is a continuous and comprehensive analysis of your safety practices to help identify hazards and address potential risks, before an accident can occur. Start evaluating your safety procedures today!