Wednesday, October 19, 2016

OSHA Inspections - What You Should Know!

In most cases, an inspection by OSHA is unscheduled. The first thing to do when an inspector arrives unannounced is confirm their credentials. Be sure to copy their badge and call the local OSHA office to confirm. You even have the right to request that the OSHA compliance officer obtain an inspection warrant in order to perform the survey. However, it is possible that requesting a warrant can create an adversarial situation that can lead to a more stringent review process and cause more headaches for you and your employees.

Inspections can occur for the following reasons:
  • Random selection
  • Targeting specific industries where they suspect hazardous workplace conditions
  • After a severe injury occurred on premise
  • Worker allegations of hazardous conditions or violations
  • Follow-up inspections to confirm hazardous conditions/violations have been abated
  • Referral (Police, Fire Department, etc.)
The first part of the inspection is an opening consultation. They will review why they selected the workplace, how they are going to conduct the survey and what paperwork they will need to review. You should assign two employees of your wash to accompany the officer. One person should be intimately familiar with all facility operations and safety procedures, while the other should be an employee that can take notes and pictures of everything that the inspector points out. Consider using someone other than management. This might be a good method of giving non-management personnel a feeling of being an integral part of the safety protocols at the wash.

The next phase of the inspection is the walk around. Make sure that your employee assigned to the officer takes detailed notes in order to have as much information as possible when reviewing any violations written up. These details could help mitigate fines associated with violations.

The last aspect of the inspection is the closing conference. During this session, the compliance officer will outline his findings and discuss any citations and proposed penalties. This is your opportunity to provide any explanations or documentation to offset their findings. If there is evidence of OSHA Standards violations or if serious hazards are identified, they may issue citations and fines.
OSHA is required to send a written violation report, "Citation and Notification of Penalty", within six (6) months of the visit. The report will describe the following:
  • The alleged OSHA Standard(s) violated (categorized as Willful, Serious, Other than Serious, Failure to Abate, or Repeated)
  • Proposed penalties
  • Deadline for correcting alleged hazards/violations

This Citation and Notification of Penalty Report MUST BE POSTED in a conspicuous area of the wash at all locations.
For violations categorized as ‘Serious’, OSHA has a practice of reducing penalties that pertain to small employers and those acting in good faith. This, however, would not apply to alleged ‘Willful’ violations.

The employer has the right to appeal. This appeal must be submitted within 15 working days, after receipt of the officer’s written citation report and submitted to the OSHA Area Director in writing.  Please note that this is the ONLY timeframe that you have to appeal. Once this timeframe elapses, you lose that right completely and your written citation becomes your final order.

Your penalty payment is also due within 15 working days after receipt of the officer’s written citation report.
Some of the most common violations that occur are:
  • No written Hazard Communication Plan in place
  • Lack of or improper use of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)
  • No written procedures for Lock Out Tag Out
  • Insufficient eyewash stations
  • Electrical (particularly in the equipment rooms)
Make sure to stay up to date on all OSHA regulations, not only for the safety of your employees, but for the efficiency and effectiveness of your business.

Refer to for a list of required OSHA Standards.

Remember: A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bloodborne Pathogen Program



Imagine this scenario: At your car wash, an employee is cleaning the industrial vacuums while another is detailing the interior of a vehicle. One receives a cut from a needle, or some other sharp object, causing the other to rush to their aid. Are the injured worker and the person coming to their aid aware of the procedures in place to protect them from contracting an infectious disease? Are there even written procedures available? If not, your business is in violation of the OSHA standard for Bloodborne Pathogens 29 CRF 1910.1030.

Your wash’s documented procedures should establish a minimum set of rules to prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens whenever an incident arises that may expose a worker to an unknown infection. They must also outline your company’s policy regarding who is authorized to respond to an incident where there might be exposure to a potentially infectious condition.

Bloodborne pathogens are defined as pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease. Two well-known examples are HIV and Hepatitis B. Bodily fluids are also included in this category since it is not always visibly possible to determine if there is the presence of contaminated blood.

OSHA requires that employers provide a written policy, acting as a communication of hazards, to every employee. Here are a few guidelines regarding the process:

  • Provide the policy when an employee first begins their job
  • Update the procedures whenever changes occur
  • Provide the written policy annually
  • Write the policy in terms and languages appropriate for comprehension from all employees
  • Make the Hepatitis B vaccine, as well as any appropriate medication associated with the disease, available to all employees. Include an option for any employee to opt out of this offer
  • A free post-exposure evaluation must be offered to employees
  • Perform a hazard assessment survey for the jobs where a bloodborne pathogen exposure may exist. Any PPE that is required as a result of this study must be made available to the employees. PPE must be usable and accessible to all employees. Make sure the equipment can be safely cleaned, or disposed of, and are replaced immediately when found to be unusable. Provide clear direction on how to safely dispose of any contaminated equipment and create a procedure to ensure the PPE has been properly removed from the site
  • Include an exposure control plan
  • Provide a specific training program
  • Develop an acceptance and declination form for Hepatitis B vaccinations and keep a copy on file.

If this seems like an overwhelming task to implement, there are a few free programs out there that offer training and can be a big assist to developing what you need.  Don’t delay, add this to your safety plan now!

Remember: A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)

Lockout/Tagout: Grim Consequences of Ignoring OSHA Standards


When it comes to working on car wash equipment at the wash, effective Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures are crucial. Having these procedures in place not only complies with OSHA standards but, more importantly, can prevent serious injury or death.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with what a LOTO program is, review OSHA Subpart J, 29 CFR 1910.147 “The Control of Hazardous Energy.” This procedure establishes minimum standards for Lockout/Tagout at a facility. The goal of the program is the prevention of accidents caused by the unintentional energization of equipment or release of stored energy. An employee isolates an energy control device by applying a lock or tag to the device in the off, or safe, position, indicating that the control cannot be operated. Note that energy sources do not have to be electrical only. For instance, an air compressor would qualify as well.

The following are some headlines that provide real life examples of the consequences of not providing a proficient LOTO program at car wash locations:

  • A Car Wash Attendant Dies When Pulled Into a Side Arm Rotating Brush in a Car Wash - 2016
  • Jason’s Story: Electrocuted and Died in a Car Wash - 2014
  • Teen’s Leg Gets Stuck in Carwash Equipment – 2014
  • Car Wash Employee Gets Foot Caught in Conveyor - 2013
  • Man Loses Leg Cleaning Wash - 2011

Having a LOTO plan in place does not automatically mean that your car wash has all the components for compliance. Some of the owners in the cases above felt that they had protected their employees by implementing a LOTO plan. However, after investigating the circumstances behind a few of these incidents, it was learned that you can sometimes comply with the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. Case in point: In the first incident listed above, the car wash was missing a written procedure for safely performing the task that lead to the death. The employee may still be alive if the owner had taken into account other aspects and intentions of the LOTO program. The development of an audit and inspection program as part of the LOTO plan would have pointed out, in writing, the potential dangers of the procedure being performed by this individual. It would have educated the employee on the dangers associated with the job he was doing and why shutting down the power was necessary.


I recently read a Grainger article outlining a “Best Practice 5-Step Plan” that I believe will help bolster a LOTO program. It’s not just about having the locks, tags, signage and good intentions. The 5 steps are:

  1. Develop and document your energy control policy/program
  2. Create and post written, equipment-specific lockout procedures
  3. Identify and mark all energy control points
  4. Train your employees, communicate and conduct periodic inspections
  5. Equip your employees with the proper lockout tools and warning devices

It is important to note that the person who died in the first title above was performing a routine job. He was simply washing down the area around the conveyor where an excess amount of dirt and debris had accumulated. It was the process that killed this employee, not the actual hazard of this particular job!

It is human nature to take the position that we comply with regulations as well as anyone can be expected to. After all, we are responsible people doing the best we can to keep our employees safe. But, we also need to continue to question ourselves and keep an open mind to constantly evaluate if there is more we can do.  It is following the spirit of the laws that will truly keep our employees safe and alive.

Take another look at your LOTO program and decide if it will meet all the criteria necessary to protect your employees while working at the wash. If you don’t already have one in place, work with your insurance provider to get one. Do it today because tomorrow may be too late.


Remember: A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Safety and Hazards


The success of any safety initiative, with regards to hazards at the wash, begins with the obvious. Too often, problems are overlooked because we become accustomed to their presence on a regular basis. For example, some areas of the wash may become compromised by transfer from the chemicals at the exit. Employees see the discoloration all the time and may think nothing of it. However, added substances can make parts of the property more susceptible to slip and falls, leading to increased liability.


One way to combat this issue is to institute a process of having an employee perform a walkthrough of the wash every day before opening for business. It is also recommended that this person be rotated periodically to ensure you occasionally have new eyes and a different perspective. Create a simple form to record any problems your employees may detect. For example:


Creating a process is the first step, but it is then imperative to provide employees a forum where they can share what they have observed. Finally, any hazards that are identified as dangerous to employees or customers must be corrected immediately.

In the example mentioned earlier, power washing the affected areas regularly may be the logical solution to minimizing the potential effect of the slippery surface. I think everyone will agree, this is a very easy and cost effective procedure to implement. So, ask yourself, does your wash review and implement safety initiatives on a regular basis? If not, incorporate a plan to start right away.

An example of a consequence when these things are overlooked can be found in the following link:

Also, please visit my earlier blog posted in February of 2014 titled “What is a Crushed Foot worth?” Outlined in that post is a detailed explanation of how to develop a formal hazard assessment program.

The bottom line is that developing proactive measures to avoid unintended injuries at the wash is worth the investment every time! Please don’t overlook the obvious and be sure you have a plan in place now.