Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Repairing carwash equipment is a major segment of everyday operations. Recently, I attended a five day course at Sonny's CarWash College learning some of the basics. An added benefit that came out of the instruction on this topic was an opportunity to view the process from a safety standpoint.
Each of the various pieces of equipment had some common, as well as, their own unique exposures and remedies. Over the course of the new few blogs, I will be sharing these observations with the expectation that they may help prevent injuries at your wash!
The following are some tips associated with the repair process on an over/under conveyor:
  1. Without exception, any person working around the conveyor must first exercise the procedures outlined in your lockout/tag-out manual. All energy sources must be disengaged before any repairs are initiated. Remember, air pressure is considered one of these. Also, keep in mind, this applies even during the investigation stage after a problem is first detected.
  2. Using trained employees is critical to safely complete all repair work. This includes what might be considered minor issues such as tightening the chain or fixing a roller jam.
  3. Be mindful that when working on hydraulic motors or the gear box, fluids may escape and create a slipping hazard. Also, if it manages to get on footwear, it may cause a problem even after normal operations resume.
  4. Employees are required to use the appropriate personal protection equipment during the entire process. This is especially important if the use of grinders or torches become necessary. The use of these tools to remove stubborn steel bolts or bearings is one example.
  5. Having the proper clothing is another consideration not to be overlooked. You should make certain that employees do not wear loose clothing or jewelry and are supplied with appropriate footwear.
  6. Using the correct tools for the job will not only ensure the best repair outcome, but also the safest. Along with that concept, making sure that all tools are accounted for after the task is complete is very important. If they are left in the wrong place, it can become a lethal projectile. I recommend either using a list and confirming the return of all items or using a small roll out tool chest that can be easily inventoried.
  7. Although not all repairs require more than one individual, using the team concept on all repairs is a great precaution for a number of reasons. Many times, one repair leads to another. The tendency is to often try to perform the next job alone even if it would require two people. Also, with two employees  present at all times, if a serious injury occurs there is someone to assist immediately.
  8. When replacing the non-slip grating, be sure to have the employee's double check that the rough side is up to help prevent slips and falls.
  9. Using the appropriate part for the repair job is critical to safely returning to normal operations. They should be approved by the manufacturer and installed in accordance with their instructions. It is always desirable to have a current manual available during any repair operations. The use of make-shift solutions can be dangerous and short lived. 
Conveyors often break down during or just after heavy use. The temptation is to get back up and running quickly at any cost. Before you make that choice, consider the long term effects. For instance, let's envision a busy day at the wash when a breaker in the tunnel controller begins to continually trip. To keep things moving until there's time to trouble shoot the problem, you decide to circumvent the device by ramping up the amperage. This works until it overloads the circuits causing a fire that puts the wash out of business for several months instead of a few hours.

Safely performing regular maintenance and repairs is an important procedure to help prevent injuries. If you haven't incorporated some or all of these ideas, start today.

Let me know what you're doing at your wash!

Look for more tips next month on safety associated with repairs to other pieces of wash equipment.

Remember, a safe wash protects people and profits!!!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Communication is Everything
I think most operators would agree that it's not a question  as to whether or not to have regular safety meetings  but rather, can you really afford not to.  Without a consistent  forum  to communicate  with your employees  the likelihood  of achieving  your desired goals  becomes  almost impossible .
The following are some considerations that may assist you in maximizing the results when you introduce safety and health meetings to your organization:
  • One of the most important  steps to begin this process is to find  a  leader that will accept a position  as the safety committee  chairperson . He or she should have the  proper background  and experience to engage your employees .
  • Keep your meetings short  and to the point .
  • Use visual aids  whenever possible.
  • Remember that the forum of the meeting should be geared as a discussion  not a lecture.
  • It is very important to have an agenda as well as a roll call for those attending.
  • Before setting  the meeting agenda, think about what " take away" messages you want  for the employees.
  • Often , employees do not want to be told what not to do but rather shown what the right thing to do is.
  • Keep your meetings as positive as possible.
  • Try to hold your meetings  in a comfortable setting.
  • If possible, allow attendees to present a topic and rotate them  from meeting to meeting .
  • Occasionally,  it may make sense to invite a consultant  or outside source  to attend a meeting
  • Take pictures or videos of people or processes that represent the way management wants it to look like. Pictures and videos at the site make it more personal than using generic photos etc.
  • Encourage questions. 
  • Try to end the meeting on a high note, for example complementing somebody on a procedure that was well done.
If you have regular safety meetings and incorporate these ideas, keep up the good work. If not, you need to start one today. To be effective, safety must be  perceived as important  as all the other messages management  deems critical  to the success of your operations .  The following links may help you structure a plan that you can make a permanate part of your safety or employee manual.

Safety Coordinator Responsibilities
Safety Committee Guidelines
Safety Committee Responsibilities
Safety Meeting Agenda
Safety Meeting Roll Call Sheet

Tell us what you do to make your meetings successful!

Remember, a safe wash protects people and profits!!