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In the last three months, our industry has witnessed some scary reminders of the importance of employee training and safety programs. From chemical use to behavior around equipment, these incidents prove our industry is not without its dangers, but that proper training and education can minimize these risks.
Many of these accidents grabbed headlines on a local level and one incident even went global on YouTube, when in February, a carwash employee’s scarf was caught in a spinning scrubber. The young woman would have choked to death if not for a fast-acting customer who cut the scarf and performed CPR. A few weeks later, a teenager worker was sent to the hospital after his foot became stuck in the conveyor belt. It took emergency responders more than 30 minutes to free the employee using the Jaws of Life.
Then last month, while many owner/operators were walking the show floor at Car Care World Expo 2009, a Georgia carwasher inhaled hydrochloric-sulfuric acid and suffered severe burns on his face, neck and arms, and had to be put on a ventilator. (For more information on chemical safety, please read “Teaching chemical safety” in the Features section.)
Although most of these incidents are described as “freak accidents,” the truth is most workplace injuries are preventable. As owner/operators and managers, your responsibility is to ensure a safe environment for everyone who works and visits your carwash.
Dr. Gary Bradt, keynote speaker at this year’s Expo, reminded carwash professionals that even the most unfortunate and upsetting of circumstances present an opportunity. For our industry this is the opportunity to review your employee training process and your safety program.
If you are reading this sentence and you do not have a safety manual and training program, you need to put down the magazine and start developing one. The consequences of not preparing yourself for the inevitable accident are serious and tragic. No one wants to be left watching a worker being loaded into an ambulance wondering, “what if.”
As this issue was going to press, an online straw poll at www.carwash.com showed the majority of our readers have had zero worker-related injuries in the last few years. But nearly 46 percent of operators reported at least one injury within the last five years. I think anyone would agree one incident is one too many, and 46 percent is a number too large to ignore.
So please take this time to speak with your vendors and suppliers about their recommendations for safety training, as well as discuss accident prevention programs with fellow operators. Post signage on your property that gives warnings to customers and employees alike, and remind your staff on a daily basis of precautions they can take to make your carwash a safe and welcoming environment for all. Opportunity is knocking, and that’s a much better sound than a wailing ambulance.