Wednesday, December 10, 2014

OSHA defines personal protective equipment as equipment worn to minimize exposure to serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs, etc.
With that said, as the saying goes, "you can lead the horse to water, but you can't make him drink" So, the question is, you can provide the items needed to protect the employee, but how do you make them use it? OSHA requires more than availability.

There was an interesting article in Safety/NewsAlert titled "Is it enough to provide safety gear, or do you have to make 'em use it"? Article Link Even though this pertained to a workers compensation case, it raises a good question that I believe every operator should ask themselves. What do I do to promote the use of the devices that will keep my employees safe?

 The following are some ideas that should be part of your list:
  • Are employees held accountable for not using protective equipment? How severe should the punishment be? Termination?
  • How easy do you make it to find the equipment you want them to use? Are they in a properly labeled container in close proximity of the hazard?
  • Do you train the employees to understand the risks of not using the protection and show them how and when to use it?
  • Do you have written policies regarding the company's expectation for using the safety equipment?
  • Is the equipment clean and comfortable to use?
  • Do you have a maintenance plan to keep the equipment in good working condition?
  • Did you assign a person to monitor a personal protection program? Are you aware of how effective it is?
  • Do you use signage to warn employees of the hazards and advise them what equipment to use? Are the signs readable and in the proper language?

  • Do you encourage employees to report unsafe conditions that would require protection equipment? (Front line eyes & ears)
Car wash tunnels and especially equipment rooms are usually the areas that pose the most serious threats to your employee's well-being. This makes the use of personal protection equipment by your employee one of the most important aspects of any safety program. At a minimum, these questions should become a checklist along with any additional ideas you may have to engage the staff to use these devices.

Keep in mind, as employers, there are at least two reasons compliance is critical to your business. First, if an employee is hurt and depending on the severity of an injury, OSHA may elect to levy fines for what they may consider non-compliance with the intent of the regulation. Secondly, even more importantly, an injured worker will cost your company a great deal of time and money. Begin today!

For additional information on personal protection equipment, please visit the following links to car wash safety 101.
Link 1
Link 2

Let us know what questions you would add to our list.

Remember, a safe wash protects people and profits!

Monday, October 13, 2014

It May Be Too Late!

The subject for this month's blog is a little different than my usual safety topics but equally as important.
Don't be one of those Operators that have to make frantic calls to keep their business open!

The reality is that it can happen when you least expect it. It can start after being notified by the Insurance Agent that the Company writing the policy covering the wash is being non-renewed in the next few days. And why could this happen? Very often it is the result of a carrier deciding that the claims have become too frequent.

There is a mortgage and without evidence of insurance, what do you think the bank will do??
Now the nightmare begins. The Agent often doesn't realize, until very late in the process, that finding another market to write this business is now difficult if not impossible. So, suddenly they hand off the problem to you with very little time to find another option.
Unfortunately, this could mean your only choice will be to find yourself a non-standard insurance company. That normally will leave you with limited coverage, questionable claims assistance, and substantially higher premiums. And, even if you are lucky to find a standard company to write your business, it will most likely be double the cost.
There is a pro-active solution and it's called claims management. Simply, following some of the following steps may help avoid this potential disaster:
  • Request electronic claims reports from the Agent or Company at least every 4 months. This will allow you the ability to review, on a regular basis, anything that has been posted by the insurance company. If there are any claims that you want to dispute, this provides enough time for a discussion before the renewal comes up. You should note that most paid claims are settled for the full amount even though there may be a deductible. The insurance company then in turn bills for the deductible at a later date. For instance, if you have a $1000 deductible for property damage to customers vehicles and you incur 3 claims you can expect a $3,000 bill in your future. This can be a real shock, especially if you are unaware of the claims!
  • When an incident is reported, it is important that a report be filed as soon as possible. Timely documentation is extremely critical to ensure the most favorable outcome for the customer, employee and the insurance company.
  • Not all insurance companies have the same expertise with handling claims in a particular industry group so, do not assume that your carrier will or can fight to deny paying questionable cases. To help mitigate these circumstances, it is often prudent to be personally involved in each case and provide as much information as possible to your claims examiner. The more you cooperate, the better chance you will have of having a positive result.
  • Record all incidents, no matter how small or incidental it might seem. This is important from the standpoint of reviewing claims to detect any patterns that might lead to a better understanding of why this loss occurred. The result of this analysis might help you mitigate or eliminate future problems by suggesting changes in processes or procedures.
  • When you do investigate claims that you don't feel are your fault, it is prudent to save all the paper work regarding what happened and include witness reports, police reports, pictures, video and all accident reports. It is a good idea to maintain these records for at least a year.
  • Appoint a claims committee to review all incidents, even if they are not reported to the insurance company.
Start today and implement your claims management plan at the wash. It will help insure your ability to continue to protect your  people and your assets!
A couple of reminders:
  1. For employers with 10 or more employees, there is a change in the injury and illness recording and reporting requirements from OSHA. This becomes effective January 1, 2015 for all work-related accidents. For a complete copy of this rule, click here
  2. Winter will be here soon.  If your location is in an area with snow and ice, get your salt logs ready!
A safe wash protects people and profits!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crushed Between Two Cars

Finding good material for writing blogs gets tougher as the years fly by. But, as I research the car wash accidents that involve injuries, invariably, the most serious are a result of people being hit by cars. Case in point, a few months ago an employee in Abilene was crushed between two vehicles at a car wash. According to the story from krbc news, an employee lost control of a Van that had been customized to accommodate a handicapped person causing the vehicle to run into another employee standing in front of the car ahead. Fortunately, the injury was not life threatening.
I don't know what protocols, if any, that may have been in place at the location, but this accident clearly illustrates that they weren't followed or didn't have any.  I'm certain that, if they had the opportunity to do this over, it would be different.
Don't wait for a wake- up call.  Take steps now to develop a plan along with the proper training to eliminate or minimize this potential exposure.
Here's a few ideas:
  • Develop a driving program with written policies and procedures
  • Appoint trained designated drivers as the only employees authorized to drive customers cars
  • Enforce specific penalties for any violations to your written procedures
  • Handicapped vehicles should only be operated by trained drivers 
  • Try to avoid stacking cars
  • Employees that are designated drivers should wear distinguishing clothing
  • Drivers should wear shirts or vests that are bright and very visible
  • Establish a consistent training program(the difference between developing the written policies and training is simply, we often have good written procedures that aren’t shared with the employees).
Also, during my research, I came across something that surprised me. It shouldn't have, but it did. It turned up when I typed in car wash injury claims. They call themselves the Car Wash Accident Attorney! Don't be one of their victims, be prepared and eliminate the risk before it becomes a nightmare.
Remember, a safe wash protects people and profits.
What do you do at your wash to prevent driver error?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

In the Blink of an Eye

Summer Safety Tips
Have you ever sported an injury and thought to yourself, if only I had yesterday to do over. Case in point, the other day I had a conversation with a car wash operator who related a story about a cell phone injury. Basically, what happened was while walking down a stairway of a newly constructed dream vacation home, his co-worker slipped and fell severely injuring his knee. The cause, texting and walking! Now, instead of enjoying a summer full of boating and fun in the sun, this individual can look forward to a leg cast and all the excitement that comes with that condition for six long weeks.
Well, today is yesterday. Even though this was a personal event, the principal is the same at the wash. The following are a few simple summer safety tips that can help you avoid the "if only" syndrome.
  • Heat stress at the wash can be addressed with little cost and just a small amount of attention. Check out my article that was published in the 2014 summer issue of the Northeast Carwasher magazine. Read Full Article Here
  • Proper clothing is always important. Be sure that the selections are appropriate for the weather conditions.
  • Pay additional attention to the employees shift schedules. Heat will wear out an individual more quickly and a tired worker is an accident waiting to happen.
  • Warmer weather means a greater number of customers and often children are likely to be outside. Be sure tunnel exits are properly marked and blocked off to pedestrian traffic.
  • Think about awnings or temporary tents to provide shady areas where customers can safely wait for their cars to be serviced.
  • Walking and looking at email messages as well as texting can obviously be very dangerous at the wash. Consider using signage to alert customers of these dangers. 

  • Summer also is a time where insect bites become more prevelant. Be sure management is aware of any employees that have allergic reactions and train the persons responsible for responding regarding proper procedures. Also be certain to check the first aid kits for the medications neccesary to treat stings and or bites.
  • Don't overlook the constant need for training and reviewing ideas.

Another important point that should assist with training efforts, is to encourage the participants at your safety meetings to take notes. Provide a small pad and writing utensil for them at each gathering. I recently read the Safety/NewsAlert E-Learning posting  that a study has determined that personally writing notes will help workers retain information. The following is a brief quote from that source Safety News Alert:

It turns out the written word creates mental stimulation in the brain. Learning and remembering is made easier.
A study by psychologists Pam Mueller of Princeton and Daniel Oppenheimer of the University of California, LA, found in real-world classrooms, students learned better when they took notes by hand.
This new research suggests writing allows the student to process the information provided and reframe it in their own terms. That can lead to better understanding and remembering.

Don't let a preventable accident ruin an employees summer and eat into your profits! Be sure to implement an action plan today and be safe.

Remember, A safe wash protects people and profits!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Safety & Car Wash Tunnel Cleaning 101
It's another rainy day and time to do some maintenance around the wash. One project that often comes to mind is cleaning the walls in the tunnel. Simple right? It would seem so but there are some very important considerations that should be a part of your training plan. The following are some hints that can assist with developing a process to address two specific areas: Safety issues and the effects of cleaners on PVC and Painted wall surfaces.
The very first safety message is to ensure that all lock/out tag/out procedures are adhered to before commencing any work! Absolutely no equipment should be running while this task is being performed. Attention should then be directed to the following:
  • All employees that perform this job should have appropriate training before attempting to wash the walls. Without this background, this function will put them at risk to a number of exposures necessary to safely complete this activity. Along with this rule, we recommend that only those trained employees be designated as approved staff permitted to perform this service.
  • All equipment associated with this process should be identified. Such as: power washers, ladders, scaffolding, mops, extension poles, etc. It is also important that these items be checked periodically to be sure they are in proper working order and accessible. Training on the proper use of this apparatus is also essential to avoid any misuse of these items.
  • PPE (personal protection equipment) should be made available. This should include at least the following: eyewear protection, proper footwear, full rain suits, gloves, etc. Once again, these items need to be viewed periodically to ensure they are in good working order and accessible.
  • You should note that many wall cleaners use HF (hydrofluoric acid), ABF (ammonium bifluoride) or chemicals with similar corrosive properties. These can obviously be great cleaners but, there are serious dangers associated with the use of these cleaners. Another problem can occur from products that don't properly identify the ingredients. It is recommended that you confirm the elements included in whatever is used to clean the walls by reading the accompanying MSDS (SDS). If pails are part of the operation, please be sure to mark them accordingly so anyone exposed to them is fully aware of its contents. There are several alternatives to these chemicals that would prove to be safer and still adequately clean the walls. You are encouraged to investigate these options with your chemical companies.
  • We highly recommend that you establish written procedures that form the basis for your training and expectations for safely cleaning the tunnel walls.
  • We also recommend that there be a process to follow cleaning up after the job is complete. All equipment, PPE and chemicals need to be properly stored or disposed of.
In addition to the safety protocols associated with tunnel wall cleaning, there are some considerations that should be given to wall surfaces that are either PVC or Painted. Here are some helpful hints provided by Robert Andre, Sonny's CarWash College President.

a)      PVC Surfaces
(1)      Using a diluted mixture of a high pH wheel cleaner applied to the walls will help break down soils.
(2)      For tougher soils, lacquer thinner will remove the toughest of stains. Rinse well after use.
(3)      There are PVC cleaners that can be bought in bulk or concentrate form that will clean various soils.
(4)      Allow the cleaners to do the work. Start at one end of the tunnel and apply the chemical cleaner. Apply to only one side of the tunnel wall at a time. Return to where you started and either scrub, or high pressure rinse the wall. This process allows the chemical to break down the soils, minimizing the amount of elbow grease required.
b)      Painted Surfaces
(1)      Using a diluted mixture of a high pH wheel cleaner applied to the
walls will help break down soils.
(2)      Use a 3:1 ratio of water and bleach to clean mildew.
(3)      Allow the chemicals to do the work. Scrub brushes and high pressure rinsing can damage the painted surfaces.
(4)      Chemicals from the car wash and cleaning process can cause the paint to breakdown over time, requiring regular repainting. Paint typically has a two year lifespan under normal conditions. With the extreme conditions in the tunnel, paint life will be greatly reduced.
           How often the walls need cleaning depends on how wide the tunnel is. If a tunnel is 18 feet wide, it will require more frequent cleaning than a tunnel that is 25 feet in width.
Make a rainy day maintenance project effective and safe when you choose to clean your tunnel walls. Appoint a point person at your wash to establish the plan and get it implemented right away!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Be Prepared! OSHA to Impose New Federal Rules

Currently in the U.S. there are 34 States that have some regulatory policies with regards to implementing an IIPP (Injury and Illness Prevention Program). A few are mandatory and many others are voluntary in varying degrees. For example, California is a mandatory State and requires a written plan. Depending on certain criteria, the minimum requirements mandate: 
  • The plan be written
  • A specific individual must be identified as a person with the authority to implement the plan
  • The employer must have procedures to evaluate work place hazards (see last month's blog)
  • New employees must show evidence of training
  • All hazardous exposures must be addressed
  • The employer must perform periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions or work practices

These are just a partial list of the standards imposed by the law in California.

The reason I am bringing this to the attention of the rest of the country is to alert Employers that OSHA has been working on I2P2(Injury and Illness Prevention Rule). This is a new rule being proposed and is scheduled to be released by this September 2014. While we all know that it will take some time to roll this out, it will be effective sooner than later. Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, has said this is his top rulemaking priority!

The basics of this new standard will be to mandate every workplace to:
  • Provide a comprehensive hazard assessment survey
  • Employers must design a written program to evaluate all hazardous exposures identified and provide periodical reviews of how the plan is minimizing these hazards as well as the risk of injuries to employee. 
  • Employers are also being required to have regular safety meetings with educational materials and training.
Currently, there isn't any federal requirement to perform these hazard assessments, except in certain situations where employees are exposed to unusually dangerous circumstances. One such example would be exposure to some chemicals.

OSHA has done a great deal of research on this topic and see this as a real simple solution with proven principles that will keep millions of Americans safer. The expectation is that implementing this rule will significantly decrease the incidences of workplace injuries and illnesses which in turn will equate to substantial reductions in costs.

The bottom line is that now is the time to get ahead of this and start developing a hazard assessment plan right away. Using last month's blog is a good way to start. Also, there are several websites with examples of programs that are being used now. Identify who your champion will be to administer and be responsible for this and get going!

A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!
Come Visit us March 31 - April 1 at the Car Wash Show in Chicago at Booth #219
See you there!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What is a Crushed Foot Worth?

July 16, 2013, a car wash worker's foot was crushed by a conveyor! This can happen at any conveyorized wash. Does your facility have the detailed safety and training policies ready? 

Developing a system to identify hazards in the workplace along with corrective actions is paramount to keeping your employees safe. Early recognition will help to avoid employee injuries and damage to equipment.

The use of personal protection equipment is an example of one practice that is often the first solution to provide the employee with protection in the performance of their work; however, it should be the last resort. There are generally two other options available for preventing or controlling dangerous conditions. They are engineering the exposure out of the job or invoking administrative procedures to minimize or eliminate the condition. Before you can successfully decide which options will work best,  employers should perform what's known as a job hazard analysis (JHA).  This method will determine existing and/or potential  hazards of a specific job so that management can first evaluate which of these policies will be more effective.

Administrative controls would be rules, procedures or standards that prevent or limit  exposure to a specific hazard. This is more about the employee. Engineering controls would be, to the extent possible,  modifications to the actual job process or equipment  that would reduce or eliminate the hazardous condition. This is about changing the environment  making the potential of injury to an employee less likely.

Examples of Engineering controls would be:
  • proper use of transfer pumps to fill secondary containers
  • eliminate use of highly corrosive chemicals and replace with less corrosive solutions
  • add drainage for water runoff
  • add gutters to re-direct water from walking paths used by customers and workers
  • proper preventive maintenance on equipment, walkways and driveways
  • ensuring all equipment with active belts have guards
  • Using proper slip resistant footwear
Some examples of administrative controls  would be:
  • designing and completing a hazard assessment form.
  • specific training  for each task  identified.
  • use accident investigation as a tool to prevent future incidents
  • create a simple process for reporting accidents
  • utilize a daily inspection checklist
  • utilize an open and closing checklist
  • utilize a maintenance log
  • learn from recording and reviewing near misses
  • use proper personal protection equipment
One of the most effective ways to complete this is to conduct a walk-through survey of all work areas and duties. The idea is to list all of the activities associated with each job along with the hazards these tasks present. This can be done by one or more persons who have the responsibility  to document  the results. It is best to include staff that are experienced in each area observed.

The JHA form can be created by your team or search on line for some examples like below. 
This document uses a simple format that breaks down the analysis into three sections, the Steps, Potential Hazard Identification, and the suggested Corrective Action. The Steps are the specific tasks associated with the completion of the operation,  the hazards are the potential or existing dangers associated with the job function and finally the last column is the suggested actions to eliminate or minimize the likelihood of injury or property damage accidents.

In the final step, pretend the team is an investigator interviewing witnesses. The following are some questions that might be posed:
  • What can go wrong?
  • What are the consequences?
  • How could it arise?
  • Are there any contributing factors?
  • How likely is it that something may go wrong?
Once you establish your answers, you can begin to develop your plan to solve the issue identified. Some examples of solutions might be:
  • Can the job be performed in another way?
  • Can you make physical changes to the job?
  • Does the job have to be performed?
As always, ideas no matter how good they may be, are meaningless unless they are put into action.  Conducting  an on-site job hazard assessment, can be the difference between a  serious incident  and an accident that doesn't happen.  Get your committee together  and begin using this  important  tool  before it's too late.

A safe wash protects people and profits!