Thursday, December 14, 2017

Is Wind an Act of God?

A strong gust of wind blows the front door open and strikes a customer, causing severe personal injuries. Is this the responsibility of Mother Nature or the owner of the car wash? The easy answer is to blame it on natural causes, but that might not be the RIGHT answer.

At your car wash, the unexpected will happen and it’s nearly impossible to protect against every scenario that could occur. That being said, I believe there are several common hazards that require preventive attention and are too often overlooked. For example, everyone takes precautions to protect their wash when the forecast calls for tropical storms, tornados, or hurricanes that can cause severe property damage. But how many take the time to prepare with the same due diligence when it applies to more common weather forecasts, like heavy winds? Shouldn’t the additional exposure expected by this seemingly non-threatening event receive the same level of regard?

Monitoring the forecast is already a daily task performed by most car wash owners to check for the probability of rain or severe weather. Consider implementing a process that steps up that practice. Include a checklist of potential risks that might pose a bodily injury threat in response to certain weather conditions, like high winds.

The following are tips for protecting your car wash against high winds:

  • Be sure that all doors are equipped with a permanent stop devices. These prevent the door from being caught by a heavy wind gust and swinging uncontrollably into unsuspecting customers or employees.
  • Consider a second means of exiting the car wash as an option for when winds are extreme. Always the door that is more susceptible to being caught by sudden gusts.
  • Regularly check the hydraulics on the door hinge to ensure the safe opening of the door.
  • Properly close and secure all umbrellas in preparation for high wind conditions.
  • Clear any debris, no matter how small, from your property before inclement weather strikes. Flying objects can be lethal.
  • Secure your vacuum hoses and other loose pieces of equipment.
  • All employees should be trained to know that wind can affect their hearing capabilities. Be prepared to compensate for warnings and directional comments that might be more difficult to communicate.
  • Double check tree branches and shrubbery for damaged or rotten pieces that may be dislodged by high winds.
  • Remind employees to be on the lookout for car doors that may be caught in a wind gust or open farther than expected. This will help avoid other drivers colliding with an open door or causing an uncontrolled impact with someone inadvertently walking by.
  • Be sure all signs, both permanent and temporary, are properly secured.
  • After the severe wind passes, take the time to thoroughly inspect the property to ensure nothing appears loose or is hanging freely.
  • Be sure any awnings or over hanging structures are secured.

I’m sure that without much effort, you can think of several other ideas that aren’t listed above. Risk management all starts with the right mind set and accepting the unending challenge to establish a safe environment for employees and customers! Put on your thinking cap today and stay ahead of the next possible disaster.


Remember a Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!!

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Incident Report Rules!

Everyone in the Car Wash Industry can agree that customer satisfaction is paramount to building a successful business. Most would also tell you that vehicle damage and customer injuries are common risks that can occur at any moment. Part of the risk management plan at your wash involves preventing losses before they happen, but it is also essential to have processes in place to respond when a loss does occur. If your employees can react to an incident with an efficient resolution, you can actually increase your customer satisfaction and further cement their brand loyalty.

The following suggestions should provide some important guidance in meeting this challenge:

  • Only trained employees should be permitted to respond to an incident at the wash. This means that there should be a designated individual assigned to this task along with at least one other person to act in their absence. The degree with which the accuracy of the information is collected is critical to mitigating the effects of the potential loss.
  • In the event of an incident, there should be a written action plan (check list) in place outlining the necessary steps to take according to the type of claim encountered. Appropriate contact phone numbers need to be readily available.
  • Customer contact on the suggested resolution should not exceed 24 hours. The faster the response time, the better chance you have to achieve a positive result.
  • Every operation should have an incident document readily available. Keep a clipboard or electronic device in plain view.
  • The incident form needs to be both simple and designed to gather the pertinent facts surrounding the claim.
  • Make sure your process includes reviewing and cataloguing all video surveillance of the incident. Check out the McNeil & Co. Car Wash Safety Bulletin on video surveillance & storage for a refresher on what your wash should have:
  • The document must be completed on every incident regardless if it is expected to be reported to your insurance company. This is especially important when the customer states they are okay or agree that the damage is their fault. No exceptions!
  • Many claims surface days, weeks or months after they occur. Pictures, video surveillance & witness statements should be immediately collected and kept in a safe place where it can easily be accessed at a later date.
  • Make the reports a part of your monthly safety meetings. They can be a great resource for you and the employees to learn.
  • As difficult as it might be to turn away business, there should be some rules in place for turning away a vehicle not suitable for your car wash. Examples include issues with height, aftermarket parts, and significant prior damage, just to name a few.
  • Keep in mind that your customer relies on your employees to be experts in determining the safety of caring for their vehicle. When they enter your tunnel with your approval, they believe that you have already assessed the dangers and ruled they are acceptable. This also holds true for while they are walking on your property. Your responsibility is to perform operations in a reasonable and prudent manner with regards to their safety.
  • Don’t be afraid to “fire” a customer. Negative people breed more negativity in others. In the long run, you will experience better profitability by establishing this policy.
  • Be firm in your position.


This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but would be a good start to managing on-site incidents and developing a greater degree of customer satisfaction. Although instituting this type of program might seem time consuming at first, the cost of not adapting a process will prove to be substantially worse. If you don’t have something in place now, don’t delay any longer!

Remember, a safe wash protects people and profits!



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Awareness Can Save Life & Limb

Often times, the simplest things can be the most effective solutions to potential disasters.

Safety at your car wash can be greatly improved with a few basic tasks. It doesn’t have to be rocket science to make it work. For instance, how often do you hold safety meetings where the subject is how to improve the attentiveness of employees and visitors at the wash? The amount of incidents that occur as a result of employees not being tuned in to their surroundings is significant. So, ask yourselves, does this indicate that there is a lack of proper training? The following are some reminders that need to be reviewed regularly to ensure that your employees aren't overlooking these simple tasks:
  • Employees need to be trained to recognize the common hazards associated with vehicles on the property
  • Directional signage must be used wherever possible to avoid confusion while driving
  • Apparatus, such as Stop-and-Go signals, may be used as long as they are not a distraction
  • Enforce strict "no cellphone" rules for employees on the clock to avoid distraction
  • All employees guiding cars onto the conveyor must be trained BEFORE they start
  • Additional training is needed for employees performing any process on the exit of the tunnel, especially in regards to safe areas for specific tasks
  • Keep distracting conversations around moving vehicles to a minimum
  • Make sure employees are well rested and alert before performing tasks
  • Take into account that stress plays a significant role in causing distractions on the job
  • Implement and enforce rules for use of tablets associated with new POS systems
  • Be sure the conveyor has an audible device that can be heard while it's activated
  • Make sure newer employees are thoroughly trained on all job related tasks and associated risks before they begin their duties
  • Have your employees create a list of distractions they see at the car wash and use your next safety meeting to discuss the causes and develop solutions to mitigate the risk
The primary purpose of these items is to help employees and customers remain aware of the activities going on around them at the car wash. Although the above list is by no means complete, adopting these practices can be a good start to creating a less distracting environment for everyone. Don't overlook the simple things at your next monthly safety meeting.

Remember, a safe wash protects people and profits!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Clarity Is Everything

Keys to Timely & Effective Claims Reporting

Recently, I received an email from one of our operators with a question he believed might be useful in my blog. The question addressed a situation that can happen at any wash with employees. In this situation, an employee took it upon himself, against company policy, to drop off a cash deposit on his way home. After leaving the bank, he was involved in a serious auto accident. The question: Would this be covered by workers’ compensation?

The debate on the answer to this question could go in a multitude of directions and would ultimately be decided by the workers compensation board. However, the situation itself raises more important issues than whether or not workers’ comp. would cover this incident. The following are some considerations that this scenario should provoke in response.

How should you proceed with a claim that is questionable? When an incident occurs it is imperative that it be reported as soon as PRACTICAL.  This applies to employee injuries that may fall under workers’ compensation, as well as customer injuries that may create medical or liability issues.  The legal climate and mandatory coverage provided vary greatly by State and there is often no universal answer to whether or not the Insurance Company should be responsible for payment and/or legal defense. This all can be open to interpretation and, too often, can contradict what you believe to be common sense reasoning. Making assumptions about how a claim will be resolved may put your company and assets at risk.

Here are a few points to keep in mind regarding timely and effective claims reporting:

  • In an effective safety management plan it is best to report and file all claims. An incident may turn out to be an early indicator of an underlying condition that could lead to more serious injuries.
  • Preserving evidence and gathering witness statements is most effective in the early stages of an incident. Not reporting these events may prejudice the rights of the insurance company and possibly negate coverage that might otherwise have been available.
  • It is possible for a claim to involve fraud. Without knowledge of the incident, the company may be denied the opportunity to initiate specific procedures that are normally used to successfully fight these cases i.e. setting up surveillance or interviewing associates.
  • In the case of a claim that might be considered a workers compensation loss, there are often severe penalties and/or fines associated with reporting a claim late. As mentioned earlier, this depends on your State.
  • Insurance companies generally have a specialist that can work with an injured employee or customer and help mitigate the size of the claim. The sooner they are involved, the greater the potential impact.
  • The insurance provider is often more qualified to do what is necessary to keep injuries from escalating into more serious conditions. For instance, a loss that starts out as a minor cut might turn into an infection that creates a larger complication, especially if the person is a diabetic.

This blog is not intended to suggest that the operator that approached me with this idea did anything inappropriate. It did cause me to pause and assess the circumstances beyond the specific example I was given.  The bottom line is that you pay a lot of money to buy insurance protection for your company. Using as many of their services and expertise as you can is just good business sense. I know that many owners and operators are concerned that too many reported claims will either jeopardize their renewal or significantly increase the cost. Sometimes there are better alternatives to managing claims than electing to accept responsibility with regard to what is covered by insurance by paying or denying a loss. For instance, it might be a better decision to participate in the costs of the loss by taking a larger deductible. Become actively involved with your insurance carriers loss prevention department and provide as much guidance as possible to the claims department specialists, keeping in mind that they often don’t know your business as well as you or your employees do. I believe, in the end, you will be better served by making these choices.

Remember: A Safe Wash Protects People and Profits!