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!