Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Anti-Collision Equipment for Tunnel Washes

Anti-Collision & Tunnel Washes!


To quote a segment of a conversation I recently had with an operator that oversees several tunnel washes, “any tunnel wash that operates without an anti-collision device is crazy!”

As most of you know, this equipment is designed to mitigate the chances of collisions at the exit of the tunnel. There are several types of machinery available to accomplish this. Ultimately, the goal is to have a system that will sense when a collision is imminent and automatically shut down the conveyor.

What are some of the advantages of this?

1.      Accident Prevention: An operator advised that he can have over 20 incidents in a day where the anti-collision mechanism shuts down the conveyor to avoid an accident. Consider how much damage can be done if a BMW collides with a Lexus. I think you will agree that an incident like that would cost a minimum of $2000 in repair costs. Preventing just one of these accidents can pay for the cost of the system.

2.      Meeting OSHA Requirements: This system can be designed to initiate a sound when the conveyor starts. OSHA standards state Conveyor systems shall be equipped with an audible warning signal to be sounded immediately before starting up the conveyor.” As you can see, the addition of the device would provide a means for complying with this OSHA standard.

3.      Reduced Loss of Income: Collisions cause your operation to shut down and creates a loss of income. It takes much less time to re-engage the system when all you have to do is remove the obstacle that triggered the conveyor instead of clearing up an accident.

4.      Tunnel Exit Safety: Some operators have successfully added a feature to alert employees at the exit of the tunnel when a vehicle is coming off the conveyor. If you have any services that are being provided at the exit, this can assist with keeping those workers alert. This may have saved an employee the loss of his legs in a recent accident at a wash.

It is important to remember that anti-collision equipment is installed with a specific function. When the human element intervenes and overrides the system, serious consequences are possible. An example of this may have occurred at a wash where an employee was thought to have manually overrode the system to prevent interruptions brought about by the anti-collision system.  Although there was no definitive evidence to support that the device was tampered with, it was not functioning properly when a car bumped into the rear of a vehicle at the exit of the wash. The vehicle surged forward to a small decline and the resulting momentum was enough to do some serious damage to the leg of an employee working in the area. Had the equipment been active and functioning properly, this accident could have been avoided!  A review of the video surveillance footage confirmed that the anti-collision equipment was functioning before and after the accident. Whether this incident was the result of human error or device malfunction, it indicates how important it is that the equipment is ready to perform its intended purpose!

Contact the vendor you work with for your POS Systems to talk about adding anti-collision equipment to your tunnel.  Be sure to discuss some of the options for safety mentioned above and find out if this equipment is right for your operations. Do it today and start saving money by preventing property damage and potential personal injury!

Let us know what you think! Has anyone had an occasion where the device failed? If so, how and why?


Remember-A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!



Friday, October 23, 2015

Avoiding Workplace Violence

Avoiding Workplace Violence
As I began to research materials for this blog, it became obvious that there are a lot of alarming statistics and horrible headlines written about this subject. However, my intent is not to simply repeat all of that in this month’s blog. Instead, I would like to provide some basic ideas that will help you know how to identify and mitigate the potential of workplace violence at your wash.

There are generally four categories that workplace violence can fall into. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) lists them as follows:

·         Criminal intent where the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship with the business or the employees. They are there generally at the location to commit some type of crime and any subsequent violence is incidental.

·         Customer/Client is normally when the aggressor does have some relationship with the business and acts out in a violent manner due to a situation brought about by a service related incident.

·         Worker-on-Worker where the hostile act is committed by an employee, or past employee, often due to work related disputes or stress related behavior.

·         Personal relationships are the last category and are defined mostly as a person who has a direct relationship with the intended victim.

A typical response after reading these categories may be to decide it’s not your responsibility, or your place, to constantly observe and evaluate the mentality of everyone at your wash. Many elect to ignore the hazards associated with some, or all, of these situations. Unfortunately, that may lead to your wash being the next headline.

The majority of the research for this blog agreed that the cause of most violent events in the workplace is stress. The following are some factors that may contribute to that hazard, along with some suggestions to defuse a stressful episode (For the purposes of this blog, I have concentrated on the third category of workplace violence: worker-on-worker):

·         Significant Change in Job Description- It is important to be sure that the employee is qualified to perform the work required for their new role. Training is also essential to be sure that employees are comfortable with what is expected of them.

·         Downsizing- Communication during downsizing is vital to keep the morale high and stress levels low. A lack of updates can cause your employees to draw their own conclusions about what is occurring. In these scenarios, employees tend to think of the worst case scenario, which could be counterproductive to what you are trying to accomplish.

·         Poor Hiring Practices- Investigate the State standards with regard to considering criminal background records as a part of the hiring process. Background checks are now cost effective, easy to perform and provide a wide scope of an employee’s history. At the very least, you should be looking at references whenever possible.

·         A Lack of Procedures to Report Violent Incidents- Without exception, every organization needs to have a violent incident reporting policy in place. At a minimum, your policy should include a zero tolerance policy with regard to workplace violence, naming the individuals assigned to accept reporting responsibilities within the wash management team, written acknowledgement that all threats are to be taken seriously and an outline of workplace violence policies and procedures. These should include how to respond to potential threats and how to involve all proper resources within the law enforcement community.

·         Loss of a Job, Raises, or Promotions- Resist an arbitrary approach to compensation. Proper documentation is vital to making sure management is providing a fair and equitable policy for all employees. The termination of any employee should be backed by sound reasoning and a good paper trail. These procedures should be spelled out in your employee manual and made available to all employees.

·         Money Problems- This falls into the category of observation. Pay attention when an employee constantly asks for advances, fails to pay back loans or complains to coworkers about unpaid bills. These may be signs that they are having money problems.

·         Drug and Alcohol Abuse- This is another observational concern. Look for signs of physical characteristics associated with drug or alcohol abuse. Also note any changes in behavior that can be attributed to controlled substances. Be sure to have a drug and alcohol abuse policy in the employee manual.

·         Being Reprimanded in Front of Your Associates- Being humiliated in front of your co-workers can be a huge stress builder. Any criticism should take place in a private setting and be offered in the most positive tactic possible.

·         Being Exposed to Bullying- A part of your workplace violence manual should include a policy on bullying and include a mission statement supporting zero tolerance. Look for signs of mental and physical abuse.

·         Sexual Harassment- Once again, this needs to be a part of your employee manual with a clear message outlining your company’s position on this topic.

This is a short list and I’m sure you may have some of your own ideas. The point is that any one of these could cause stress and trigger a violent act. If you are an owner, or supervisor, it is important to consider these potential hazards and the best practices for resolving them.

In the end, most of this comes down to observation. Employees are the most important resource at your wash. To help keep them comfortable and safe, controlling and preventing potential workplace violence is vital. Pay attention to the aforementioned factors, train supervisors to spot unusual behaviors, design and enforce a workplace violence policy and encourage open communication with all your employees. As with all my blog posts, if you don’t take action, nothing will happen. In this case, you may become the next headline!

The link below had a lot of good information that may assist you in developing a plan if you don’t have one currently in place:


Remember: A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Choosing Chemicals Can Be a Deadly Decision

Choosing Chemicals Can Be a Deadly Decision

On August 21, 2015, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reported that “exposure to hydrofluoric acid (HF) causes corrosive chemical burns and potentially fatal systemic toxicity.” They referred to examples in Washington State where “during 2001-2013 there was a fatality associated with a truck wash worker who ingested the substance, along with 48 occupational cases. Among those injured, seven were hospitalized, two required surgery.”

Is this information really significant for car washers? Here are some of the headlines that were circulating a few days after the report was released:

·    The NY Times - Car wash chemical dangerous to workers

·    The Spokesman-Review - Car wash chemical a danger to workers

·    Kurt Niland - CDC finds High Rate Of Chemical burns Among Carwash Workers

·    Business Examiner Media Group - Workers burned by car wash chemicals

There is a common theme in all of these headlines; they all refer to car washes! However, if you read the report, it also names truck drivers, auto detailers and truck washes. But what industry did the media pick up on? Car washes.

Most of us know this is not a new topic. Much has been written over the years about HF and ABF (Ammonium bifluoride). Both of these chemicals are very dangerous, causing many car wash owners to discontinue using these products. Unfortunately these chemicals still exists in the industry for cleaning wheels and tunnel walls.

Here are a few reminders of what to be aware of when handling these products:

·    Skin contact is often undetected until after the injury has occurred, since the chemicals tend to penetrate the skin quickly and attacks the bones. This delays any sense of pain, giving the effected worker the illusion that nothing is wrong.  By the time they feel the consequences of being exposed to the chemical, the damage has already occurred.

·    If HF is used in a spray form, it can be accidently ingested and can cause internal burns.

·    An alert circulated by the Oregon OSHA division in May of 2013 stated that “an HF burn covering less than two percent of your body can kill you.”

There are a few precautions you can take if you are using HF or similar chemicals:

·    Train all employees regarding the hazards associated with these chemicals

·    Wear goggles and face shields (not glasses)

·    Wear an apron approved for use with corrosive chemicals

·    Wear neoprene and nitrile gloves

·    Wear appropriate shoes (no sneakers)

·    Use engineering and administrative controls to limit exposure

·    Consider using equally effective alternative products for HF and ABF

Some first aid ideas if someone comes in contact with these chemicals:

·         In the event an employee’s skin is exposed, immediately apply 15 minutes of continuous water flow to the affected area.

·         As soon as possible, transport the exposed employee to a medical facility. Be sure to take a copy of the MSDS/SDS document with you.

·         If you have a trained first aid person available, they should apply calcium gluconate gel for skin burns. This should help limit the tissue damage. If the injury is eye related, they can also apply sterile one percent calcium gluconate in saline drops.

After reading this blog, many may believe that they don’t have this exposure. I implore you to be sure you read every chemical label to be sure you know exactly what you’re up against. Some years ago, I did a survey at a car wash and found an unmarked pail sitting in the car wash tunnel. The manager explained that they used this cleaner for the wash tunnel walls. We found the original pail that the chemical came from and it was labeled simply, wall cleaner. After reading the label more carefully we learned it had HF as an ingredient. The manager was shocked!

There is no doubt that these chemicals are great cleaning products at the wash. They’re also the most deadly! Don’t sacrifice your employees’ safety; make the smart decision and look for alternatives. Finally, be sure to read all chemical labels and avoid unwelcomed surprises. Your chemical suppliers are a great reference, make sure you use them!

For reference, these are the new pictograms you should be looking out for:

Remember, A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Prevent Death and Dismemberment at the Wash

Prevent Death and Dismemberment at the Wash

Can you imagine what it’s like to tell a family that their son or daughter has lost a limb or been killed? As an owner of a Car Wash, you may have to have that conversation someday. I know you’ll agree that you would do anything in your power to prevent such a tragedy.
If you own a business, you have a responsibility to keep your employees safe. Now ask yourself, have you done all you can to prevent injuries to your employees, as well as your customers? If you answered “yes”, you could be leaving yourself and your business open to a possible disaster. Safety is an ongoing process that requires constant analysis. You should continually evaluate your organizations safety procedures and implement changes and updates when a new best practice arises.

When evaluating and developing your safety plan, the best place to start is identifying the most present and dangerous exposure that could jeopardize the safety of your customers and employees. Once the exposure is identified, you can develop a pro-active plan to mitigate or eliminate the factors that most contribute to that risk.
For most washes, the greatest risk comes from the hazards associated with moving vehicles on the property. Generally, this risk is the worst when a vehicle suddenly accelerates, whether due to mechanical problems or human error.
Recently, in a two-week period, there were reports of driving related catastrophes at two unrelated carwashes. One incident resulted in an employee losing a limb; the other resulted in death.

You may be surprised to learn that both of the previously mentioned incidents occurred with a customer behind the wheel. In the car wash industry, we tend to focus on developing safety procedures when our employees have control of a vehicle, but often forget about the dangers associated with a customer driving their own car. Many full-service washes have meticulous procedures to reduce these extreme risks, but exterior washes are not immune to these dangers either.
The following are some ideas that you may want to consider at your locations:

1.       Towel Washing Operations:

a.       Often times, there are part-time employees working in this section. Most washes spend some time reviewing how to hold the towels, the proper clothing to wear and general instructions on how to avoid damaging customer cars. However, training should also include understanding the dangers associated with vehicles moving through the tunnel. Most importantly, employees must be held accountable anytime they are observed deviating from this training.

b.      Evaluate the configuration of your exit area. Some specific areas to focus on are: 1. the distance from the end of the conveyor to the employee station 2. Driving patterns that may direct traffic towards employees 3. Safe areas for employees away from exiting traffic 4. Procedures to recognize and address the added exposure of busy days vs. slow days.

c.       Consider and address the negative impacts caused by distractions while driving. There should be signs posted prohibiting the use of cell phones and other hand held devices while operating a vehicle. You should have a protocol in place for when a customer appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Employees should always make sure the customer is comfortable driving on the property before allowing them to enter potentially dangerous areas. The main focus is to establish a procedure to determine whether a customer driving the vehicle will maintain a safe environment, and if not, creating a process to alleviate the potential danger.

d.      You may want to consider using a visual aid to alert customers when the wash cycle is done. Many washes currently deploy an audio alert, such as a horn, that can surprise a driver and cause potentially dangerous situations. A visual aid can help keep the driver focused on the environment near the exit and remain alert of potential hazards. A simple Stop & Go light could potentially save a life.

e.      Be sure that employees are wearing bright colored clothing. These outfits will keep drivers more alert and aware of their surroundings.

f.        Make note of where the sun shines during the day. Employees should be aware of certain times when a customer exiting the wash may have their vision impaired by glare.

g.       Be sure to implement, and enforce, a policy forbidding the employees use of headphones while working. Their senses should be free of as many distractions as possible.
2.       Detailing Operations:

a.       When backing vehicles out of the bay, be sure to deploy a spotter. Make sure the spotter can be seen by the driver and is aware of the traffic pattern.

b.      Employees should never stand directly in front of, or behind, a vehicle.

c.       Make sure employees use their horn when backing out of the bay to alert other operators of the moving vehicle.

It can be difficult to identify some of the causes of incidents involving moving cars. However, the best defense is a continuous and comprehensive analysis of your safety practices to help identify hazards and address potential risks, before an accident can occur. Start evaluating your safety procedures today!

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Devastation of Arc Flash Burns

The Devastation of Arc Flash Burns

An arc flash, or arc blast, is a type of electrical explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to ground or another voltage phase in an electrical system. The results are often violent and can lead to serious injury, or death, when someone is near.
At this time, I would like to introduce John Albanese. John is an IBEW member of almost 20 years and a service tech assigned to respond to and repair electrical emergencies. He works with and around live electricity every day, with voltages ranging from 12 V to 34,500 V. He also works regularly in the Car Wash Industry. Recently he disclosed a story that is definitely worth sharing. The following is his account of events that lead to a shocking and frightening situation that could have turned out much worse than it did:

The most devastating electrical incidents that I face are from arc flash. When that phenomenon occurs, the center of the arc flash can reach temperatures as high as 30,000°F. They happen completely without warning and almost always when you least expect it.

I was called to assist a customer that needed to tie into their 480 V switch gear to power up a new line of battery chargers for their forklifts. Since this facility is a 24/7 operation they wanted it done without power interruption to the plant.  When I arrived, the customer showed me where they had run the conduit and wire, but were afraid to punch into the main gear. I knew I would be working with live 480 V three-phase power, so I called for assistance to have another qualified electrician with me. Once he arrived, we decided to open the side of the gear to have a look at where the ground and neutral would be tied in. I was going to remove the cover over the bus where the I - line breaker was to be installed to make sure it was in good shape to accept the breaker. The gear was old and untouched for many years, so my partner was tapping on the screws of the side panel to break them loose. While he was doing this, I started to remove the bus cover. All of a sudden there was a horrific explosion. Less than a second later I found myself on my knees screaming. I wasn't sure what happened initially.  I quickly realized what had transpired and wondered if I was hurt. I first felt my face and it felt hard and my hair was crispy. I knew the power was out because it was completely black, but then I realized it was more than that, I was blind. I was scared, burnt, and blind and not sure where exactly I had landed and what dangers may be next to me. I had to call for help. My partner took my arm helped me up and led me back to my service truck to sit down.

I was rushed to the hospital and somewhere along the way I got my vision back, slowly creeping in from my Peripheral to my center vision. I was lucky; only second degree burns on my face and some hair loss.

After the investigation as to what had happened, it was discovered that the gear had two 4 1/2 inch holes knocked out on the top. This facility handled thousands of aluminum kegs every day. The banging of aluminum kegs had created an aluminum dust which settled on top of everything inside the gear. When we started banging on the screws it jarred the dust airborne and created a path for the voltage. Aluminum dust is highly explosive, which compounded the explosion.

I have always been safety oriented and felt that I was not in danger at that point of our task. My gloves, flash suit, and face shield sat in a bag on the bumper of my truck ready for use when I got to the point that I felt I needed it.

Anytime electricity is present there is a danger. I learned that no task is without the potential for an unintentional occurrence.  This is a great example of how something totally unexpected can turn ugly fast. I should have been wearing my personal protection equipment before I exposed the live internal parts of the switch gear. Even with all my years of experience, my best lesson was not to ignore the safety gear available.”

After reading this, I looked up pictures of electrical burns on the web with the idea of showing a few examples. I elected not to post any of these pictures due to the graphic and disturbing nature.
Every time I write a blog I try to put myself in the position of the reader. When I wrote this, I thought, “This is serious and I’m certain many will think this can’t and won’t happen to them.” I just hope that in the future, when you are working around electricity with that casual attitude, you remember this story. John, a seasoned expert, didn’t think it would happen either!

Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that employers "shall furnish to each of his employees, employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Arc flash is considered one of these recognized hazards, and thus, failing to take proper steps to avoid arc flash is a regulatory violation. Be sure your wash is in full compliance and has a written program, if applicable.
It is important to not just understand the dangers associated with arc flash, but to convey these dangers, and how to protect against them, to everyone in your organization through training. It is also important to make the use of protective equipment mandatory in any situation where an employee would come in contact with electricity. If it is not already, make this a written procedure in your safety manual today!

Remember, A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Can Ladder Training Save a Life?

Can Ladder Training Save a Life?

In my many years surveying car wash operations, I have found that too many operators fail to provide formal training for ladder safety. I believe that many feel it is too basic a subject and not worth the time and effort. Ladder safety is a simple issue that can turn serious very quickly if it is not addressed correctly. Still having doubts? Consider the following incident:

Several years ago, one of my clients experienced a $2,000,000 verdict due to a claim involving an injury caused by a fall from a ladder. The case involved a vendor who was visiting the property. The vendor needed a ladder tall enough to reach the top of the roof and found that his ladder was too short. Without consulting the operator, he searched and found a ladder to meet his needs in a storage closet. Unbeknownst to him, this was a defective ladder that was scheduled to be disposed of. While climbing to the top of the ladder, a rung gave way, causing the vendor to fall and break his back.

Not the operator’s fault, you say? The jury didn’t agree. There wasn’t a sign on the ladder stating that it was defective. There wasn’t a warning sign on the equipment room door showing entry was restricted to employees only. The ladder wasn’t even properly secured. Also, without a written ladder program, the operator was in violation of an OSHA standard. Don’t let something this easily avoidable happen to you.

The following are some simple steps to establish an effective ladder safety program:

1.    Develop a written ladder procedure. This should address minimum mandatory actions for the selection, installation, maintenance and use of ladders.

2.    Develop a training schedule to ensure that all employees are given the proper information to comply with your policy.

3.    Schedule regular ladder inspection sessions.

4.    Assign a minimum of two employees that will be responsible for the administration of this program.

5.    Be certain that there is a specific procedure for any vendor or contractor, while they are visiting your locations.

6.    Establish an enforcement policy for your ladder program.

7.    Design an easy-to-use checklist to assist employees with compliance.

8.    Do not store ladders near corrosive chemicals that may compromise the integrity of the components.

9.    Remember, aluminum ladders can be conductors of electricity. Care should be taken when carrying these around electrical wiring, particularly in equipment rooms and tunnels.

Here are a few pictures illustrating the incorrect use of ladders:

It’s often difficult to engage employees when they think topics like ladder safety are common sense. However, that is when they need training the most. When employees become too comfortable with the process, it can breed a culture of complacency, leading to carelessness and increasing the chances of avoidable accidents. Understanding the basics of ladder safety will help keep your employees and visitors safe. Often, safety is nothing more than consistent reminders of common sense information! If you already have a plan in place, be sure it meets the minimum criteria listed above. If you don’t, it is important that you create one today!

Remember, a safe wash protects People and Profits!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Almost Disastrous Collapse

Almost Disastrous Collapse


They say a picture is worth a thousand words!

(Pictures provided by Sonny’s CarWash College)

This is what can happen when maintenance is not a regular part of your daily operations. If the vehicle had occupants, this incident could have resulted in serious injuries. Many operators claim to maintain their equipment, but they don't have a standard process in place. 
These days, it is simple to have a written plan or checklist in place to standardize what needs to be maintained, how to perform the maintenance tasks and how to record the results. Many equipment manufacturers provide manuals and simple-to-use forms for this purpose.
The following are some ideas that may help you design a plan around theirs:
·         Identify the pieces of equipment that need to be maintained and determine their average lifespan. Design your schedule of maintenance around the determined time frame.
·         Be sure that all employees tasked with maintenance duties have access to the manuals applicable to each specific piece of car wash equipment
·         When performing maintenance on some of the more common items (i.e. mitters, nozzles, hoses, etc.), it is often a good idea to replace them all simultaneously.
·         Keep your maintenance log in a convenient and easily accessible location. Something as easy as a composition book hanging on each piece of equipment will work.
·         Categorize items by daily, monthly and annual service checks. This will create an easy to follow schedule of maintenance for all of your equipment. Again, your manufacturer can be very helpful in this process.
·         Maintenance extends to all activities that help create a safe and effective work environment. It is crucial to include checklists for housekeeping, damage to equipment or buildings, cleaning walkways and driving surfaces and other similar tasks.
·         Keep an eye on all electrical items when doing a daily visual inspection. Anything that appears out of line should be reported to a licensed electrician immediately. Again, be sure to record all service work.
Consistent and regular maintenance will help ensure that your equipment will safely perform the jobs it is designed for. Well-maintained equipment and a safe work environment help prevent bodily injuries, property damage and destruction to customer’s property. It can also keep your equipment running at peak performance. All of this equates to big savings for your business that go directly to your bottom line!
If you already have a program in place, be sure to review procedures periodically to ensure you have addressed any changes brought about by new equipment or processes. If you don’t have a current plan in place, get one now!


A safe wash protects people and profits!