Monday, December 6, 2010

Dismemberment at a Car Wash!

At a car wash in mid-west a machine called an industrial centrifuge extractor was being used to dry towels. An employee had his arm pulled from his torso when he reached into the extractor while the internal drum was still spinning. As a result of an inspection conducted after the accident three citations were issued by the Secretary of State. One issue before the Commission alleged that there was a willful violation of an OSHA machine guarding standard. The Secretary imposed a penalty of $28,000 for the violation. So not only do we have a catastrophic injury to an employee but in addition to the insurance payout the wash incurred the following costs; loss of business, loss of a valued employee, cost to retrain a new employee, personnel cost to process the paperwork, loss of productivity due to moral and the $28,000 penalty. In this particular case safeguards were circumvented and proper training was absent.

Another case in point, an employee took a short cut through the tunnel. As he was exiting, the intake vent on the blower sucked the jacket he was carrying up in to the machinery tearing his arm from his shoulder. Although there was a guard it was inadequately designed to prevent this terrible incident.

In both of these cases the outcome was a successful limb reattachment, however, they would never have the full use. With the proper training both incidents could have been avoided altogether. It is imperative that all employees understand the dangers associated with car wash machinery. Repetitive training for both new and existing employees is an absolute if you are to maintain a safe environment.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winter Conditions Can Cause Serious Injuries!

Here are some tips and/or reminders to help prevent slips and falls during the winter months:

  1. Maintain Salt Logs at each location.
  2. Move garbage receptacles at self serve washes next to the bays to minimize customer walking exposure.
  3. Use signage to direct customers to walk on areas of the wash that are designed to accommodate pedestrian traffic.
  4. Be sure all underground heating is in good working order for both the bays and aprons around the wash.
  5. Check all gutters - are in good repair and directing runoff to areas of the wash devoid of pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
  6. Whenever possible offer cover for areas where there are customer change and vending machines.
  7. Inspect bays daily for any ice build up.
  8. Check weeping systems - are they causing excess icing on the bay floors?
  9. Extra salting may be needed where over spray occurs.
  10. Be sure employees are wearing proper foot wear and clothing.
  11. Only use approved portable heating devices and position them away from combustible materials at all times.
  12. Identify areas of the wash where morning sun is prevalent whit shade in the afternoon. This scenario tends to create black ice and require more salting than other spots on the property.
  13. At the exit of the wash, inspect all areas where excess run off from the vehicles can create dangerous slipping exposures. Some samples are; vacuum stations, sidewalks, detailing and where the cars enter the public roads. If the distance from the exit to the road is short, you may want to consider rerouting to allow more time for the dripping water to drain. This way you can keep it under your control.
  14. Surveillance cameras are always a good idea to help prevent fraudulent cases.
  15. If a slip occurs, a photo of the area as well as documentation and maintenance logs are very important.
  16. All exterior ramps and stairs should have approved railings.

Feel free to add to the list with a comment.....And rembember a little extra effort could go a long way!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Electricity can KILL!

Some years ago a young worker at an automatic wash was asked by a manager to remove a defective motor. He had disconnected it from the three wires that were supplying the power but unfortunately unaware that the actual power circuit was not de-energized he continued with the motor removal - at the same time a car entered the tunnel automatically activating the power resulting death by electrocution. He died instantly.

Electricity is an integral part of the everyday life at a carwash. It is imperative that all employees recognize the dangerous circumstances that surround electrical power. With that in mind it is essential to train any employee who may work on any electrical power source. OSHA mandates that all operators have a lock out/ tag out program in place at each location. This is intended to insure that there are proper procedures for shutting down the equipment while maintenance is occurring, so that it can not be unexpectedly started. Your agent or loss control representative will be able to help you design this plan for each of your locations.

Note that OSHA also requires a system for the use of ladders. I am aware of an incident where an employee took it upon himself to fix a potential problem. He used a ladder at the facility to investigate some loose wiring and was severally burned as a result. OSHA requires a written program for ladders at your carwash. One of those requirements is keeping the ladders secured and locked, accessible to trained managers only. In this case the employee was neither a manager nor trained to preform the task. Had this mandated procedure been in place this loss could have been avoided.

Yet another example of ladder misuse ended in a $2million dollar payout. A subcontractor borrowed the carwashes ladder to inspect some roof equipment rather than using his own. As it turned out the ladder he borrowed was defective and resulted in a serious back injury. Aagin had the written and secure procedure been in place this injury could have been avoid.

What are your procedures when it comes to ladders and electricty.....share it with us!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Personal Protective Equipment Basics - Part 2

Many of you may remember a few years ago when a young female employee lost her fingers due to exposure to HF (Hydrofluoric Acid). In this particular instance the accident occurred because the acid was already inside the glove via transfer spillage. The point is, having the right protection is only part of the preventive measures necessary for safety. Keep this in mind as you review the items listed below.

Hand Protection: The one thing to remember with gloves is there is no one glove that provides protection for every type of hazard. Knowing both the hazard you are guarding against, and the type of protection required ensures you will properly protect your hands in all circumstances. Most gloves are designed for a specific hazard or task.

Gloves used for chemical protection are not good for general tasks or with every type of chemical. Just because a glove is right for one type of chemical doesn’t mean it is good with every chemical. It is important to match the right glove to the right chemical.

General work gloves, such as leather gloves, are good for protection against cuts, slivers and blisters, but won’t protect against electrical shock or chemical exposure. Leather gloves are good when handling rough work or material.

Cut-resistant gloves are designed to improve the employee’s grip when holding oily metal parts and to protect hands against metal burrs or other cut hazards. They won’t provide protection against corrosive chemicals.

The important thing to remember about gloves is there is no one glove that will guard against every hazard. Depending on your job, you may need more than one pair of gloves to guard against different types of hazards.

Eye and Face Protection: Eye and face protective equipment provides the user with good protection when worn properly. When equipment doesn’t fit well, it will not provide proper protection and may cause a greater hazard. Adjust all safety equipment to your size so it fits properly and will protect you. Safety glasses must have side shields that are mounted to the frame. The glasses themselves should be adjusted so they fit properly around your ears and on your nose so they don’t keep sliding down. Face shields provide protection for the whole face where glasses only protect the eyes. They have adjustment ratchets on the headband that must be adjusted to the individual user’s head. Goggles provide good protection for eyes against dusts and mists. They should be adjusted properly so they fit snug on your face and there are no gaps between the goggle and your face. Vented goggles help to prevent goggles from fogging up in warm locations.

Foot Protection: Obviously the slip and fall hazard around carwashes is substantial. Be sure that all employees footwear is designed for best traction in a wet environment. Keep in mind that shoes can loose their traction value with wear and even though they look acceptable they may not be.

There are many different types of personal protective equipment that will help keep you safe. Make sure you are always wearing the right equipment for the right job. Make sure all the equipment is adjusted properly and that you keep all the protective equipment clean. Never use any equipment that is broken or is not working properly. Damaged protective equipment provides no protection at all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Personal Protective Equipment Basics

Part I

Personal protective equipment is used because there is some type of hazard that has been identified that cannot be eliminated or controlled through other means. Simply stated, when there are personal protective equipment requirements, it means there is a hazard that may cause individuals injury and failing to use the prescribed equipment puts them in potential danger.

First Line of Defense
Personal protective equipment should NOT be the first line of defense against identified hazards. Make every attempt to engineer the problem away so protective equipment is not necessary. When you can’t fully eliminate or control the hazard, then require protective equipment as part of your safety policy.

When and Where Protection is Required
Assess all the work areas to find the hazards that are there, or might be there, and then make protective equipment decisions based on those assessments. This is an ongoing process to make sure you are always current and always aware of the hazards of your car wash work environment. Require supervisors to keep you informed of the type of protective equipment for each wash location or the specific jobs being performed.

Proper Use of Personal Protective Equipment
No protective equipment is good unless it is sized right and fitting properly. This may sound elementary, but everything from gloves to shoes to glasses to goggles must fit the right way in order for it to properly protect. Be sure to have your employees take some time to make sure all the protective equipment is the right size. If some equipment doesn’t fit in the right way, it’s not doing you any good at all… and that’s a situation you certainly want to avoid.

Limitations of Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment is effective when it is used as designed. For instance, not all gloves protect against all hazards; leather gloves provide good protection against cuts and slivers but do nothing for chemical safety. Safety glasses protect your eyes but not the rest of your face. For each type of personal protective equipment, it is important to know what it will guard against, and what it won’t do.

Care and Maintenance of Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment that is not properly maintained will not last long and will not continue to protect the user. In fact, poorly maintained equipment can be a greater hazard; glasses that are dirty create visibility problems, chemical gloves with pin holes will allow chemicals to touch your skin and shoes held together by tape won’t protect your feet and will create trip hazards. Before each use require your employees to inspect equipment for problems, and when they are done using the gear, clean it up so it is ready for the next use.

Personal Protective Equipment Must be Accessible
Not long ago a carwash operator with many years of experience approached me with about a situation that could have been disastrous. He explained while he was in the equipment room transferring a chemical the container slipped causing the chemical to splash across the side of his face, just missing his eyes. Fortunately he was able to wash himself down quickly avoiding serious injury. Though he normally uses protective wear it was not where it belonged so rather than take the time to search for it he elected to take the chance. According to him it is one that he will never take again. The thought of coming that close to loosing his eyesight was a sobering experience. So one more tip for you is to be sure the personal protective equipment is easily accessible and simple to find. You know your employees if it is not right there they will not use it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Carwash Driving Tips that could save a life!

Many of you are painfully aware of the history of SUV incidences that have resulted in fatalities, major injuries and significant loss of property. Throughout my 15 year tenure in this industry I have accumulated a few helpful tips that could mitigate the chances of this happening at your wash.


1. Only designated drivers (other than managers) are permitted to operate a customer’s vehicle.

2. All designated drivers must have a valid driver’s license.

3. All drivers must have a minimum 3 years of driving experience.

4. It is recommended that all drivers wear distinguishing clothing so the management team can easily identify them.

5. Any handicapped or modified vehicles should only be driven by a manager or a driver specifically trained to do so.

6. All drivers should be required to pass a driving test administered by the owner or manager.

7. Each quarter, all drivers should attend a mandatory drivers safety meeting. All of those in attendance should be required to sign off indicating date and time of each meeting. (Download meeting attendance sheet.)

8. The owner should require all new drivers to present a copy of their drivers’ abstract from Motor Vehicles. This procedure should also be required of current drivers on an annual basis.

9. It is recommended that, if employees clean rugs at the entrance to the wash that they replace both front carpets on the passenger’s side until the vehicle is ready to be returned to the customer. This will eliminate accidentally placing them on the gas pedal.

10. The employee should start all SUV vehicles only when it is in park.

In addition I would suggest training the employees driving the vehicle off the conveyor to keep their hands on the ignition switch as an added precaution. This will help remind them to turn the vehicle off if a sudden acceleration should occur. Some washes also utilize the hazard flashers to alert employees when SUV vehicles are going through the tunnel.

During very busy days I know the temptation is to use all available employees for driving but those are the days when things are most likely to go awry. Please seriously consider always using only dedicated experienced and trained drivers exiting the conveyor at the very least. And always refrain from using youthful operators.

Many jurisdictions allow unlicensed drivers to operate a vehicle on private property. However, we had an instance some years ago where an unlicensed driver lost control of a car due to a malfunctioning gas pedal. It crossed four lanes of traffic and was lucky enough to only sustain vehicle damage without any bodily injuries. The unlicensed driver was not so lucky. Since the driver was now on a public road they were arrested on the spot. Another negative outcome was that even though this loss occurred as a result of the customer's vehicle malfunction the wash was 100% responsible. There was no defence once an illegal act is committed such as driving without a license.

If the Wash's exit opens out towards a public highway it is important to install approved barrier to prevent the vehicle from inadvertently accelerating into traffic.

Exterior car washes can also pose problems that could cause fatalities, personal injury and damaged property. Part of a successful safety management plan should include assisting the customers driving vehicles. This is often overlooked and can be solved with a few simple steps.

1. Train your employees to note any drivers that seem uncomfortable going into the wash. Most often these will be senior citizens who can be distracted or confused easily. In these instances it would be prudent to have the employee offer a designated driver manage the vehicle through the wash for the customer.

2. At the Wash's exit be sure that the instructions are clear as to what a vehicle driver should do as they exit. i.e. Stop, go, traffic lights, arrows directing traffic etc.

Please share your driving tips with us by posting a comment with the link below.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What you don't know can hurt you!

One of the most dangerous operations at the car wash is handling and use of chemicals. An important aspect that is often overlooked is proper labeling.

Each label describes the contents of the chemical, how to safely handle and apply it, and general safety practices (first aid)for that particular container's contents. It will also identify any dangerous ingredients. Unfortunately very often labels are damaged during product transfer and general wear & tear. Therefore it is important to periodically check not only the drum labels but all container labels too. If they are damaged, it can be easily replaced by the supplier. We recently paid a large 5 figure claim due to a container that looked like pretreat bug spray but was really a caustic chemical. The employee applied the spray to the vehicle resulting in destroying the entire body of the car. The only solution to the claim was a brand new car. So, not only is having the labels displayed where they can be easily seen and readable a smart idea, it is an OSHA requirement. Also, do not ignore hand held bottles - it could be a costly mistake! Even though many of the contents of the spray bottles are generally harmless and easily recognized by the employees, on a busy day someone helping out may not be familiar with the product and that's generally when a problem arises.

Proper labeling should also include another OSHA requirement, MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). OSHA mandates that you maintain a copy of this document for every chemical used at the wash in a binder located in an easily accessible area. This is a part of your HAZCOM plan which is where you need to comply with the standard that requires identification of all chemicals in use to your employees. These are provided by the chemical manufacturer free of charge for each chemical you purchase. My tip is - in addition to meeting this OSHA standard, affix a plastic sleeve to each container with a few copies of the MSDS for quick and easy access in the event of an emergency. A few years ago an employee was rushed to the hospital after accidentally splashing a chemical in his eye. A quick thinking manager grabbed the MSDS sheet for the physician to refer to. After treating the employee the Dr. explained to the manager that had he not provided the MSDS to him, the original procedure he had planned to follow, would have caused permanent damage to the the employee's eye. I also recommend that you provide copies of the MSDS documents to your local fire department. This knowledge can assist firefighters in their effort to more safely respond to the scene and it could help them control any potential pollution to the local environment as well.

As you know many times it is the simplest or seemingly the most obvious that gets overlooked. Chemicals are a big part of your daily activities. Sometimes this can lead to routine which in turn leads to becoming less aware of the safety issues associated with the handling of these products. Let this be a friendly reminder to take a step back and be sure everything is as is should be.

What story can you share that help your wash with chemical safety?

A safe wash protects people and profits!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

To coin a phrase, Benjamin Franklin's quote tells us that the investment in preventive safety management saves money! The average cost due to theft at many carwashes is $25,000. 80% of that loss is damage to either the building or carwash equipment, not the loss of actual currency.

Most carwashes have a minimum $1,000 deductible which is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes this kind of loss. Consider, an important hidden cost is the decrease in volume due to the communities perception that your location is now unsafe. Finally add to that the increase in premium you will most likely experience on renewal from the insurance company. This incident has now resulted in a large out of pocket direct expense.

There are some very cost effective solutions to minimize these expenses to both you and your insurance company. One example is, for the cost of the average deductible, you can install shock and vibration sensors. These will be very effective if your wash has automated tellers. Many of the newer machines are equipped with these devices pre-installed, however, unfortunately most are not connected when setup. You can also retro fit machines that do not have sensor devices pre-installed. (Check out Safeco Alarms for more information.) If you have this exposure my advice is to at the least wire them to a local alarm. The majority of these types of thefts are spur of the moment looking for an easy target. A local siren or alarm eliminates that scenario. If possible I would also suggest tying it to a central station alarm if you have it. The local alarm prevents the immediate damage to the equipment while the central station will hopefully keep them from coming back at a later time. To help reduce the cost of this installation do your own wiring. Sensor applications could also be applied to change machines, vending machines and vacuums.

Other safety considerations would be; superior lighting, developing a rapport with the local police, video surveillance and plenty of security signage.

In these economic times more and more of these crimes are being committed. Even if you have not been effected by this yet the odds are sooner or later it could happen to you. Don't be a victim.

What really good things have you done at your wash to prevent crime?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Motorcycle slides into intersection!

A number of years ago we paid a claim when a motorcycle was unable to stop at an intersection just past a carwash. The driver sustained serious injuries. As a result of the accident investigation, engineers were able to determine a significant amount of residue had been deposited on the lane exiting the carwash through to the intersection when compared to the opposite side of the road. This condition was a major contributing factor involving the carwash in the suit as a defendant, which subsequently resulted in a judgement.

There are a few lessons that can be learned from this particular loss as well as other hazardous conditions that can be avoided regarding slippery surfaces. One example is, many carwashers elect to use silicon based tire dressing, as opposed to water based, which without properly addressing the surface issues can increase the risk of accidents such as this.

As a car exits the tunnel, the residue is transferred not only to road surfaces beyond the carwash but all too often to public areas at the carwash. Some examples are common walkways used to vacuum the vehicles, discard garbage, offline detailing and access to vending machines. Left untreated an unsafe condition for both employees and customers is the result.

Another example of transfer would be if you have a short span from the exit of the carwash to the public roadways, investigate alternative routes to allow more time for runoff. You may also consider a downhill slope with a drain at the end of the exit ramp. Work with your local transportation department for possible assistance in this regard.

I would also suggest a routine maintenance schedule be implemented. It is often best to document each time the employee cleans/maintains the area including where, when and how. In areas of the country where freezing can be a concern a simple tool was developed to keep track each time salt was applied to control ice buildup. Download/preview 'Salt Log' this is an example that may be helpful or that you could modify to your own specifications.

Share your suggestions on how you were able to improve slippery conditions associated with carwashing.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One death is too many!

Over the past 15 years I have administered the National Carwash Insurance Program. During that time I have experienced three death claims. Even though this is the most extreme consequence to the many hazardous operations at carwashes, it should impress upon us the importance of safety for both your customers and your employees.

We have to take that first step if there is any chance of providing a safe environment for all. This is the impetus for my blog. To get the word out to as many operators as possible that the time is now to be proactive and develop your own safety action plan.

At a recent meeting of over 150 operators I asked the question, "How many in this room have any kind of safety plan?" Less than 5 people raised their hand.

The intent of this blog is to offer you simple solutions to begin your 'Safety Management Program'. Let's get started.

Buy yourself a binder to collect your safety tips in. You can find these here on my blog or Professional Carwash & Detailing, ICA - Safety Resources, NRCC Claims Categories & Preventive Actions and CarWash College to name just a few.

Implement monthly safety meetings where you discuss these tips and hold trainings for your employees on best safety practices. I have created a few documents that will help you get started; Safety Meeting Agenda Sheet and Safety Meeting Roll Call Sheet . Helpful hint - use one of your newer employees to run the meeting.....wait let me explain. What I have found is that most often they have not had time to create bad habits and they often will pick up on things to that may be overlooked by your seasoned employees.

Do you have a safety tip that you would like to share?