Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Proof is in the Pudding

Processes to protect Customers and Employees

With all of the recent OSHA activity keep in mind that not all safety regulations are mandated.  Up until now, OSHA has not established a standard for employee fatigue. However, injuries associated with this condition are beginning to mount.  Due to weather conditions, car washers often have small windows to wash a volume of cars; this can lead to excessive hours and, of course, employee fatigue.  If your company does not have a policy to address this situation, consider putting one in place before someone is hurt or it is mandated by OSHA. 

A clerical employee was severely injured in a lube shop that had been converted into a detail bay.  In this case the bay still had the opening for working under the cars which created a tripping hazard.  Lesson learned: when operations are modified, be sure that the conditions of the facility are conducive for the new operations being preformed. This is also an example of an injury that was sustained as the result of an employee being in an unauthorized area.

Another serious incident occurred when a customer exited their car in a lube bay and fell into the pit. There was a policy in effect requiring all customers to remain in their vehicle, however, the customer chose to ignore this.  To prevent these occurrences an accountable employee should be assigned the task of enforcing all rules.

Bottom line, great processes are meaningless unless they are put into action and then enforced.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Now?

I recently read that OSHA is likely to target a specific class when a serious accident occurs within their industry group. I also learned that, often, OSHA, will then begin a series of random inspections at nearby business with similar exposures.

Exactly that happened when a car wash worker was killed and one injured by a customer as they exited the tunnel. A year later, OSHA established a special program to focus on planned enforcement of hazards inherent to car washes located in certain states.

Prior to this, inspections had been limited to referrals and complaints. Now it is an industry focus. Do you think they will be looking to make an example of some of these businesses? You bet!

If you don’t have a formal safety program, get one. Your insurance provider can help. If you do have one, now is the time for updates. If you are unclear what to look for, there is an OSHA handbook for small businesses with a self-inspection check list available on their website. It is a good place to start.

If you are a multi location operation, you must have a program at every property.

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance.

OSHA tip:  If you are visited, one new area they are looking at is fire extinguisher inspections. Most operators are aware that the tag must show an inspection has been done annually. However, many might not know that the tag also has spaces on the back for monthly internal inspections. OSHA is now looking to levy fines for those businesses that do not have monthly postings!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Be Prepared for Violent Crimes

Protecting your employees from harm during the commission of a crime is too often taken for granted.

Violent crimes are a fact of life.  We recently paid a claim for an employee that was shot in the head by a robber at a convenience store, one of the profit centers for the car wash location.  This location  was equipped with alarms, surveillance, good lighting, etc.  The problem here is an example of the inherent dangers of extended hours.  A lone employee in a 24 hour situation is often more exposed to being held up. Luckily in this instance the employee survived but that is not always the case.

The following are some ideas that might help keep your employees safer when handling money.

  1. If you have 24 hour exposure - this is not recommended - but if you choose to:
    • Have a minimum of two (2) employees on at all times
    • Keep minimal cash on hand
    • Install a drop safe
    • Have signage that clearly states all of the above
    • Request police drive-bys
    • Train your employees about safety in a 24 hour environment (only let trained employees work the late night shifts).
    • Give up cash immediately should you be robbed
    • Have a silent alarm that can easily be triggered
  2. Do not allow deposits to build up more than one day.
  3. Watch for non-customers or employees that 'hang out' or around the property consistently.
  4. No less than two (2) employees should open or close the wash.
  5. Limit cash on premise and use signage to advertise this fact.
  6. Employees should be trained in emergency and robbery responses.
  7. Install exceptional lighting.
  8. Have a Key Control Plan
  1. Deposits should be handled by more than one (1) person.
  2. Vary routes you take to financial institution/bank.
  3. Vary vehicles you drive to financial institution/bank.
  4. Vary times you go to financial institution/bank.
  5. If there are any incidents while you are carrying money - call the police IMMEDIATELY. A car accident is one example of how robbers obtain access to deposits being transported.
A safe wash protects people and profits!

Watch for details on the FREE 1 hour webinar about 'Crime Safety' sponsored by CNA and Mang Insurance on July 26th and 27th!

Post a comment and share what is working for you at your wash, we would love to hear from you!

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    It's the little things that counts!

    Something that seems insignificant can sometimes lead to serious or even fatal consequences.

    Example:  A car wash supervisor died when an air tank exploded in a car wash equipment room. The investigation showed that the pressure relief valves had been tested by the National Board Testing Laboratory and found it to be functioning properly.  In an independent evaluation it was discovered that there were products of combustion in the air tank.  They reported that this was most likely caused by the wrong viscosity of oil being used (not manufacturer recommended oil). Read the full article

    Admittedly, this is a rare accident. What it should show us is the potential hazards that can be the result of cutting corners.

    In an effort to take some precautions to ensure that this does not happen at your wash, be sure to have air tanks and compressors inspected and serviced on a regular basis.  Please use original equipment manufacturer oil and maintain documentation of all repairs/servicing.

    A few more tips:
    • Air pressure should be drained regularly (weekly).
    • Service should be done annually.
    • Oil levels should be checked once a week. (If you notice it needs oil often it probably has a leak and should be checked/repaired.)
    • Keep maintenance logs up to date.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011


    While performing a car wash safety inspection I noticed a sign on a vacuum, advising customers of the high risk associated with vacuuming hazardous material.

    While this is a new one to me, it seems every few years there is a vacuum explosion at a car wash. How does this happen? Many customers are unaware how dangerous it is to vacuum hazardous waste, such as gasoline, out of their vehicle. The explosion occurs when a spark from the vacuum motor ignites the gasoline fumes.

    Fortunately, the incidents I found were all limited to property damage, but certainly this could escalate to a bodily injury claim. Isn't it sad that often your insurance pays the loss when the customer is the cause? One of the best ways to prevent this is to post a sign (like the one shown below), advising them of the danger.

    As is often the case with safety, with a small cost and minimal time, you can save yourself the potential headache an incident like this could cause you and your wash.

    I hope to see you at the Car Care World Expo 2011 in Las Vegas the first week of May. Visit me at booth 1635 to share some of your car wash safety tips and enter our drawing for a FREE registration to a CarWash College course valued at $1,000.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    It is only an 'app' away!

    Do you have a hearing conservation program?  If your employee noise exposure levels equal or exceed an eight (8) hour time-weighted average sound level of 85 decibels OSHA says you must have one.

    While attending a round table discussion at the Southeastern Carwash Association Roadshow in Atlanta, I found an easy way to determine what your decibels levels are. Kevin Wood, owner of Snappy Express Wash Inc. in Clarksville Georgia, demonstrated how modern technology makes it as easy as 1 - 2 - 3.  He simply downloaded an application on his phone for a 'Noise Meter'.  Then used it while walking through the tunnel at his wash to identify areas that may exceed acceptable noise levels.

    Click here for OSHA's decibel chart and further information you may need to comply with this standard.

    I would also suggest that you add this task to your maintenance logs, monitor decibels, changes and necessary actions taken to maintain compliance.

    Have any tricks with decibel levels you could share?  Post a comment or email us!

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Let us count the ways!

    We blogged about chemical safety, OSHA requires it, there have been a flurry of articles recently and it's a hot topic at an upcoming trade show.  So it's obvious that many people in this industry believe this is a message that must be heard.  However, if the message is never implemented it is meaningless. 

    Case in point, a carwash manager asked a employee, with only 1.5 months of carwash experience, to transfer a chemical from one barrel to another.  During the process the hose slipped out spilling some of the solution on the employees' sneaker.  Most likely because the employee was unaware of the danger, he did not mention the mishap right away.  As his foot began to bother him he reported it to the manager and was told to go home to remove his shoes and socks.  It was assumed the he would report to work the next day.  By the time he arrived home the burn had progressed so severely he had to be taken to the hospital.  Four months later, after several skin grafts and rehabilitation the employee was able to return to work. 

    This is currently an open claim already surpassing $30,000. 

    So how does this really impact the owner of the wash?  Let us count the ways!
    1. New employees are one of the most costly investments.  Here the employee had to be replaced immediately.
    2. Countless hours of paperwork and time with doctors, insurance claim and employee.
    3. Significant loss that will be part of the owner's record for three long years when placing his insurance.  This can equate to an increase in premium from 20% - 40%.
    4. Four months from a young employee's life not to mention the fact that he will have scarring for his entire life.
    5. Negative impact on other personnel with regard to safety issues.
    The real could have been avoided if there were three basic protocols in place.
    1. Proper employee training - including chemicals
    2. Proper use of MSDS sheets
    3. Procedures to address employee injury/accident
    Had the employee been properly trained on the importance to safely handling chemicals and then how vital it would have been to immediately report the accident, and the manager had a procedure to follow, refer to the MSDS sheet for direction and rinsed the employees' foot immediately he may not have been disfigured.

    The only way to respond instinctively is to be trained repetitively.  Have procedure, train it and practice, practice, practice it, to make it perfect.  Because when an accident occurs and you are scared, worried or in reactive will know what to do, where to go and who can help.

    Those of you who are reading this are probably thinking, I know all this, but do you practice it?  And if you do, do your employees?

    If you have any suggestions how to ensure chemical safety is properly followed please share with our readers.

    Washing safely means bigger profits, healthy employees and happy customers!

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    The Value of Knowledge - 'Priceless'

    It occurred to me after completing the five day Management Course offered by the CarWash College, that my next blog topic should address the value of learning. Whether it takes place at a course like this, a trade show, educational seminar, association meetings or networking functions, there is no substitute for sharing experiences with other industry professionals. In my case it helped me understand new ways to improve safety at your locations for both your customers and employees.

    While at the class I was introduced to some bug removal systems and floor applicators. These inexpensive automated options are used in the Southern States to remove bugs. I realized it could also be used as a solution to a problem I observed recently while doing an onsite safety inspection at an exterior car wash. It was in the Northeast, so the entrance to the tunnel was cold, wet and icy. This wash preps the vehicles prior to going through the tunnel. Normally there would be two employees on either side of the vehicle prepping but, since volume was down, there was only one. This created a hazardous condition where the employee had to navigate back and forth in front of the vehicle over the conveyor. In these conditions an employee is at risk of slipping under or being run over by the vehicle. Using one of these automated prepping systems could mitigate the chances of an employee being seriously injured.

    I can't remember a time when I have come away from any learning opportunity without out one really good idea or new perspective. As car washes across the country wrestle with the downturn in the economy, crazy weather patterns and what many operators consider an overly saturated market, it's unimaginable anyone can afford to miss the opportunity to gain knowledge. Because if you are not willing to, I am certain your competitor will be.

    YouTube video of employee slipping on conveyor >>>

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Does the Glove Fit?

    I reached out to Al West, North East Sales Manager at Simoniz USA, Inc. ( for additional PPE information.

    Al writes - Thanks for asking me to research the answer to your blog readers question ‘Are there differences between one type of glove and another in terms of safety when handling chemicals?’.

    I spoke with our lab tech's and our plant/safety manager. They told me, unfortunately there are thousands of types of material for chemical protection in gloves, there are specific materials designed to handle alkaline and different materials designed for acids. There is also material that handles both - these would be considered the highest quality glove.

    They said the most important factor in protection is the "Rate of Permeation". Typical gloves that we buy at CVS or Home Depot etc. can be as low as an hour or two. This presents the biggest risk in safety as people could be using gloves that may be keeping their hands clean yet not truly giving any protection.

    The gloves we use have a rate of permeation at around Two Weeks, that's big. We buy "Ansell" gloves model "Sol-Knit Nitrile Glove". We buy these from Graingers. Hey every Car Wash guy knows Graingers ( they are a great source for so many things.

    Ansell also has excellent disposable gloves that would give excellent protection to our industry - models "Touch N Tuff" and "Micro Touch EP". You can check out their website

    Thanks Al I appreciate your team’s expert advice.