Thursday, October 31, 2013

If The Shoe Fits!


Slips, trips and falls are nothing to laugh about. In the car wash industry, those of us that have been around awhile know that losing your footing can cause serious injuries. This exposure surely exists for both customers and employees alike. However, the purpose of this blog is to address the employee side.

There are many reasons why employees slip and fall at the car wash. But, one of the most common causes of these incidents is the improper use of acceptable footwear.  In fact, in a study published by the National Floor Safety Institute over 24% of these incidents can be attributed to that specific factor.

The following represents some basic facts that may assist in helping you and your employees understand how to properly make the right choice in selecting safer footwear.

The first simple consideration, of course, is to use slip resistant shoes. Here are some criteria to accomplish that:
  • Use shoes with wide grooves to channel liquids
  • Look for soles with slip resistant rubber compounds
  • The sole should be flat
  • The lower the heal, the better
  • Depending on the job description, use steel toed shoes
  • They should be water resistant
  • Select shoes that are ankle height
Also, the following are some common sense rules to include in your list of conditions outlined in the footwear program at the wash:
  • Ensure the shoes are comfortable and fit snugly
  • Monitor the tread regularly
  • All footwear should be in good condition at all times
  • Inspect for damage and replace or repair any worn or defective parts
  • Soles that are smooth should be replaced immediately
  • Match the footwear to either weather conditions or specific work activity
For example, keep in mind that the exposure will vary if the employee is working in a lube or detail center as opposed to concrete. The employee at the lube might be better off using a shoe with an oil-resistant sole. If they are moving drums or heavy items regularly steel toed shoes are recommended. With ice or snow it would be a good idea to have slip-resistant traction devices that fit over the shoe.

A good way to monitor these steps is to develop a simple checklist for each employee that should be reviewed at least bi weekly.

There are a few vendors that specialize in footwear and offer assistance selecting the appropriate shoes that will match the exposures common to most car washes. I have included a few links to view a couple of options; and

Please note the chart below which depicts the relationship between shoe soles and the work activity.

Once again, adding this program to your safety routine can save your company big dollars and go a long way to keeping your employees safer. I urge you to investigate some type of footwear plan and implement it today!
Tell us about your Footwear program and remember:

A safe wash protects people and profits!
Excerpts of the information presented here were obtained from a webinar conducted by Mike Benmosche-McNeil & Company, Bob Mellendick-CNA Small Business Risk Control Director and David Ludwin-CNA General and Products Liability Risk Control Director.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Its All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye"

The headline on a website titled INJURY SETTLEMENT GUIDE, a resource for individuals seeking legal  advice on personal injury cases, was “Eye injury due to lack of safety gear while working at a car wash” Could this be inspired by an incident that happened at your wash?

In short, the article is from a car wash employee claiming she was asked to clean the walls in a car wash tunnel, some of the chemical used to wash the walls got in her eye and she lost partial vision. Her version of the event was that this task was assigned to her after being on the job less than a few months without training, or proper safety equipment. Her legal question was to find out if she had a remedy other than workers compensation available to compensate her for her injuries. In other words, can she sue the car wash owner?
As I visit washes across the country, one of the most common observations I make is related to poor practices in the supply and use of eye protection. This is not only disturbing but a clear violation of OSHA.  Any employee that is exposed to chemicals that are categorized as a hazard falls under the standard 29 CFR 1910.133-eye and face protection.
The following are some ideas that may assist your facility with some criteria to help design a plan to ensure employees have the proper eye protection: 
  1. Use goggles that guard against splashing. This means they should have continuous shielding around all edges to prevent chemicals from entering from above, below and from either side. Open ended eyewear is not acceptable when working with chemicals.
  2. Be sure that the splash goggles are not stored with other eye protection. This will prevent an employee from choosing the wrong set of glasses. 
  3.  Regularly inspect the condition of the approved eyewear. They are exposed to tough conditions daily and will most likely need constant attention. It is a good idea to keep a log with the date checked and also when they were last purchased. Also, be sure that damaged glasses are thrown away immediately. The following are a few items to look for during the inspection process:
    • Test the elastic to be sure it has not stretched out to a point where the glasses no longer stay tight.
    •  Look for scratches on the lenses that make it uncomfortable to see out of.
    •   Be sure the plastic edges are not worn to a point where the liquid can leak into the glasses.
    • Be sure the glasses are clean. Employees will not use equipment that appears dirty.
  4. Find a safe place to store eye protection close to the hazard where they are visible. If they are in a cabinet, be sure to use signage to identify where they are stored.
  5. The following are some tips on what to train all employees regarding eyewear protection:
    • Review hazards relating to all chemicals on the property 
    • Explain the various jobs associated with these chemicals, i.e. transfer, wall cleaning 
    • Review who can and who can’t work with chemicals 
    • Be sure to point out the most dangerous chemicals along with the potential risks 
    • Review where the eyewear protection will be stored 
    • Assign a least two individuals who will be responsible for the eyewear program 
    • Make it a disciplinary offense to be found working with chemicals without the proper eye protection. This needs to be a rule that is enforced to be sure that all employees are held accountable.
Losing the use of your eyes would be a tragic event that none of us in the industry want to happen. Especially, when there are easy solutions to prevent this. Once it is done, there is no turning back. Unless management at the wash accepts responsibility for devising a plan to prevent eye injuries, it will happen.

If your current safety manual does not include some of the items outlined in this blog, it is imperative that you begin the process necessary to add this topic. Hopefully, you have a staff available and my suggestion is to assign this to a committee with a specific completion date. Keep in mind that your insurance and chemical representatives can be a valuable resource when you establish your eyewear protection plan.

Keep your employees safe and start today!