Monday, August 13, 2012

Carwash Safety Leads To Higher Profits

You may not be aware that carwashes with low incident rates earn higher profits.  It is a myth that your insurance will pay for all of the costs associated with a claim.  This is known as the 'Iceberg Effect' - those hidden/indirect costs.  The following is an illustration of a simple claim:

Incident - Employee Injury equals direct costs totalling $1,500

Using the formula developed by the National Council on Safety for calculating indirect costs on claims under $3,000:

Direct Costs x 4.5 =  Indirect/Hidden Costs
$1,500   x   4.5  =   $6,750

Then of course we add the hidden costs to our direct costs for a total claim of $8,250.

Here is how that affects your bottom line.  Assuming our wash has $300,000 sales with a $75,000 profit equating to a profit margin of 25%, you would need to generate $33,000 in Net Sales (Gross Sales less overhead/operating costs) to completely cover the total costs of the $1,500 claim.

Just think how many cars you have to wash in a given month to simply cover this 'Iceberg Effect'.

So what are indirect costs?  This is just a small sampling of them:

Lost time spent by supervisors investigating the accident
Lost time by supervisors completing paperwork
Lost time by clerical staff completing and following up on paperwork
Damage to tools and equipment that will need to be replaced or purchased new
Cost of training a new employee replacement
Loss of production and productivity
Loss of business due to damaged public image
Loss of efficiency due to break-up of crew
Failure to promptly service your customers
Lost time by other employees discussing the accident
Loss of productivity due to employee moral

As you read this remember that your competitor may already be aware of this.

A safe wash protects people and profits!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Accident Investigation 101 Final Chapter - Implementing Recommendations

 Up to this point, we have completed our investigation and reported our findings. I know that you are thinking this process is overwhelming, but once you put these steps in place it becomes just another one of your daily routines.

In this section we will look at making recommendations and implementing changes to prevent a similar incident from occurring again.

If you have not already established an accident investigation committee, this would be the time to do it.  This committee should be an extension of your safety meetings.  I recommend that you include various people from different positions in order to get a variety of perspectives.

Recommendations should be made to address all of the issues uncovered in your investigation.

Implementation can vary greatly in the degree of difficulty to get the recommendations executed.
It is up to the committee to present the facts of the accident in a clear and concise manner to individuals in the organization that has the authority to make the needed changes.

To enforce these changes from everyone's diligence and hard work in the investigation process depends entirely on the delivery, implementation and follow though.

The key to the success of implementation is ACCOUNTABILITY!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Accident Investigation 101 Part VI - Reporting

An accident investigation is not complete until a report is prepared and submitted to management for further review.  

In our previous blog we discussed how to take the proper information to document an incident at your wash. The next step is using this information to initiate a process to determine why this happened and how to prevent it in the future.

Your company may have a standard form, but if not we have included a sample report below for your convenience.  Regardless of what form is used, the accident report should cover the following four sections:

Background Information
a.       Where and when accident occurred
b.      Who and what were involved
c.       Operating personnel and other witnesses

Account of the Accident
a.      Sequence of events
b.      Extent of damage           
c.       Accident type

Discussion (Analysis of the Accident)
a.       Direct causes (energy sources; hazardous materials)
b.      Indirect causes (unsafe acts or conditions)
c.       Basic causes (management policies; personnel or environmental factors)

Recommendations (to prevent recurrence) for immediate and long range action to remedy:
a.        Basic causes
b.       Indirect causes
c.        Direct causes

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Accident Investigation 101 Part V - Interviewing a Witness

Information from witnesses regarding the accident is vital for finding the accident cause.  There are several types of witnesses who could have information helpful in determining the cause of the accident:

·         Those who actually saw the accident happen or were involved with the accident.

·         Those who came on the scene immediately after the accident.

·         Those who saw events leading to the accident.

·         Those who have information about the specific operation involved, and the equipment involved in the accident.

Schedule a time to meet with each witness.  Because important details can be forgotten as time passes, interviews should be conducted as soon as possible.  Witnesses should be interviewed in private to avoid distraction.  Try to keep witnesses separated until you interview them, so that the observations of one do not affect that of another.  Have a list of questions you will ask each witness.  This will keep the interview organized and helps get the conversation back on track if the witness gets sidetracked.  Important points during the interview process:

·         Use an informal setting for the interview.  If you sit across a desk from the person being interviewed, the witness will be more intimidated and consequently may not provide as much information.

·         Explain to each witness that the investigation is being conducted to try to eliminate the cause of the accident so it doesn’t happen again, and not to place blame.  Let them know that the information they provide will aid greatly in understanding what happened.

·         Use open ended questions; questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”.  Questions like “Tell me what you saw” are much more likely to uncover valuable details which may not otherwise be recalled.

·         Never lead witnesses, or force them to give information unwillingly.

·         Let the witness proceed at his/her own pace without interfering in the conversation.  Take notes as to the specific details you want to probe further after the witness has finished.  Keep the witness talking about the details of the incident, and do not allow him/her to make conclusions.

·         If a witness does not speak English, interview him/her with an interpreter present.

·         If you need to interview a person who was injured in the accident, it is better to do the interview as soon as possible in the hospital rather than while the person is being cared for by emergency personnel.  Always follow the request of doctors and nurses caring for the patient if you do the interview in the hospital.

The interview process can be a challenge as witnesses may be reluctant to disclose information that they feel will get someone (or themselves) in trouble.  Witnesses are not trained observers.  They may not have been paying close enough attention at the time of the accident to provide enough details to be helpful.  In addition, the witness may have a personal bias for or against the injured party, which may skew their statement.  It is important to always record the witness’s statement as a statement and not as an absolute fact in the investigation.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Accident Investigation 101 Part IV - Photographing the Scene of an Accident

Photography can often serve as a valuable method of recording conditions at the time of the accident. This is true whether the incident is minor or serious.  Often times incidents don’t mature to a serious claim until much later.  Preserving the original scene as much as possible is vital as often changes occur during the investigation or shortly thereafter.

Photographs should be made prior to any adjustments to the scene.  They are helpful in determining what happened, preparing your report and in analyzing the conditions at the site.   These can be taken with a video, digital, disposable, or cell phone camera. 

Before taking any pictures you should determine if the scene has been altered.  If items have been moved or changed note what the alteration is and the person’s name who made the change.  Items may have been moved to reach an injured person or other legitimate reasons.  Remember to photograph from several angles; front, back and both sides.  For close-ups, use a ruler next to the object photographed in order to provide an accurate scale for the picture.

Create a log for each photographs/videos taken (download sample log here).  Note the weather conditions, time of day, angle from which it was taken, by whom and any observations made while photographing.  This information should be recorded at the same time as the pictures are being taken.  Utilize technology by recording into the video itself, into a note taker on your cell phone or have an employee write/type as you dictate.

Please be sure to pull and preserve any security camera footage on to a CD.  Save it with a date and time stamp as well as documenting the name of the claimant.   Keep all of the evidence from the accident in a separate clearly labeled envelope.

Statistically, the average person remembers 50% after 1 hour and only 30% a after 8 hours.
Once you are satisfied that you have gathered all of the evidence, including samples of liquids and any machinery you will need from the scene of the accident, it is best to return it to normal use.  Remove all barriers, restore power and allow personnel to function at the scene as normally as possible.  However, you must first make sure it is safe to do so.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Accidents 101 Series – Preparing for Accident Investigation

To be prepared to conduct an accident investigation, a kit should be assembled containing the basic tools needed for the investigation.  The following is a list of basic tools every kit should contain.  However, additional safety equipment may be needed depending on the situation being investigated.
  • High visibility tape or rope
  • Pencils
  • Ruler and measuring tape
  • Graph paper
  • Camera with Film or cell phone with photo capabilities
  • Photography log
  • Plastic bags and envelopes
  • Containers with caps
  • Clip board and note paper
In addition, personal protective equipment should be worn if needed while conducting the investigation at the accident scene.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Accident 101 Series - Preparing for Accidents

Although it is not possible to predict where and when an accident will take place, it is most important to be prepared when one does occur. Your company should have emergency procedures in place for when an accident does take place. You should also have designated at least two employees as your accident response team.  Elements of an emergency program should include:

  • Rescue and first aid
  • Alarm systems
  • Limiting further harm to persons and equipment
  • Notifying authorities
  • Notifying those who will investigate the accident
Above all, the purpose of emergency response is to get help for injured individuals.  To ensure this happens, emergency response drills should be practiced on a routine basis.

Download a sample of an emergency contact list here!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Accidents 101 Series - Why Investigate?

Welcome to the first blog in the Accidents 101 Series.  While every accident situation is unique, in this series I hope to present a systematic process for collecting information to determine how the accident happened.

Why Investigate An Accident?

There are two primary goals of accident investigation:
  1. Determine the cause of the accident
  2. Prevent it from happening again
Accident Investigation is critical in the risk management process.  It allows an operation to learn from its losses and increase the level of safety by controlling hazards that may not have been evident.  The ultimate goal of accident investigation is to uncover the causes of the accident, and implement changes to prevent a similar accident from occurring.  Your job as an investigator is to search for the details and analyze the information you have gathered to determine the causes, and to make recommendations for corrective actions.  Your job is not to fix blame on anyone or find fault.

Download your copy of a sample Accident Investigation Form here.

OSHA TIPS:  Reminder to post your OSHA Summary Logs February 1st through April 30, 2012 and update your MSDS sheets once every 12 months.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Got a minute?

We all know, in many cases, carwashing volume is way off as a result of several factors.  However, there are still busy days.  As in many businesses today, carwash owners are often trying to do more with less.  These are the times where accidents most likely occur. 

Example:  At a lube facility the normal procedure for rotating tires required two employees.  One of the main purposes of this process was to insure that no steps were missed. During a busy day one employee was removed from this process - result - woman lost tire while driving.  The investigation revealed that the lug nuts were never tightened.  This could have resulted in serious injury; luckily it was not the case. 

How could this apply to carwashing; there have been numerous claims where untrained drivers were used during a busy day resulting in personal injury and property damage incidents.

Moral of the story, procedures are designed to protect customers and employees. It is imperative that everyone at the wash understand that cutting corners, especially at a busy time, will result in increased risk!  I recommend highlighting this exposure to your employees with either a poster or an alert included in their paychecks.

OSHA Tip:  Bottles used for eyewash stations are not acceptable.  To meet OSHA standards the eyewash station must have a minimum of 15 minutes continuous water flow.