OSHA and your car care business - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

OSHA and your car care business

Safety at your car care business should be your top priority. The notion of keeping your employees, your customers and your property out of harm’s way is essential and noble, but it’s also important to know that if you fail do follow a certain set of guidelines, you will be cited by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

And, while a citation sounds severe, it might be comforting to know that OSHA provides all of the tools and resource you need to make sure you’re following all of the proper guidelines and regulations.

Last year, the cover story in the February issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing covered the role of OSHA, common citations and how to improve safety measures. This cover story covers what new regulations have been implemented, and what steps you should be doing prior to, during and after an inspection.

Why OSHA is a big player in your business

Other than yourself, if you at least one employee, you are covered by OSHA. Recently, the Administration has increased the number of penalties issued. And, while a penalty is bad, the negative press you can receive can be equally harrowing for your business. If there is a severe violation, OSHA sends out a press release to the public, the news outlets and any other media forums to let the public know that the carwash was an unsafe environment for such and such a reason.

If a fatality or three or more employees are hospitalized, high emphasis hazards, non-fatalities due to potential release of highly hazardous substances, and all “egregious” violations will put you on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) list, according to Foulke. “No one wants to be put on this list,” he said.

So, what can be done to avoid having an incident occur at your business? For starters, become educated and acclimated with all of the OSHA regulations.

According to Gina Houser, the safety and health coordinator for Autobell Car Wash Inc., understanding and applying the OSHA regulations to the carwash can be a daunting task. “We, like all industries, can improve on our education level when it comes to safety regulations.  I can’t stress enough the use of resources such as your insurance carrier, OSHA websites, and other safety professionals to improve any safety program.”

Houser knows that since safety is such a broad topic, so it’s important to approach your safety measures with patience and to reach out to others will questions.

“There are always changes, new letters of interpretation written about an OSHA standard, and new points of interest during OSHA inspections,” said Houser. “Reach out to others, and keep those connections fresh. Also, share freely any information you learn.  Educating ourselves as an industry will only help us all in the future.”

What’s the latest?

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification of Chemicals (GHS) is part of the 2012 revision to the Hazard Communication Standard.  “GHS focuses on more standardization for Material Safety Data Sheets, which will be known as Safety Data Sheets.  GHS also introduces pictograms that will be required on containers and bottles,” said Houser.

According to Houser, the transition from MSDS to SDS, along with the introduction of pictograms, will be complete by mid-2016. The first training deadline was December 1, 2013, and included the introduction of the SDS sections as well as pictograms. “The initial training is meant to educate employees so they are aware of the changes that are coming in the workplace.  Carwashes may already be seeing the new SDS format on chemicals.  More deadlines are coming.  There are great education materials along with the OSHA deadline time table listed at www.osha.gov.”

The 2012 revision to the Hazard Communication Standard is the biggest change in OSHA currently, noted Houser. “I encourage operators to reach out to their insurance carrier, other operators, and the federal or state OSHA website (depending on the state) to ensure compliance.  This is an area you can bet OSHA will be reviewing at every OSHA inspection this year.”

What about the ‘whistle blowers’?

According to Edwin G. Foulke Jr., co-chair of the Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group with Fisher & Phillips LLP, companies which celebrate zero-incident periods or offer safety-incentive programs are frowned upon by OSHA because they encourage employees to not report any incidents or potential incidents.

“A company will offer a pizza party or something similar if they have zero incidents within a certain amount of time,” Foulke said, “but OSHA is working to discourage them and instead encourage whistle blowers.”

Foulke also said that OSHA will “carefully scrutinize” a workplace where an employee who contacts OSHA is discipline. Therefore, be sure to let your employees know that you are a huge proponent of safety, and not only is it okay to contact OSHA, but it is also okay to approach you if there is a safety concern.

Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels, PhD, MPH,issued an updated Office of Whistleblower Protection Programs memorandum. One of the provisos, which can be found at http://www.whistleblowers.gov/ , states: Protection from discrimination means that an employer cannot retaliate by taking “adverse action” against workers, such as:

  • Firing or laying off
  • Blacklisting
  • Demoting
  • Denying overtime or promotion
  • Disciplining
  • Denial of benefits
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation
  • Making threats
  • Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion
  • Reducing pay or hours

In fact, according to Foulke, the number one reason the carwash unions have been formed in California and New York is safety. “In California, workers were constantly reporting to OSHA about blood-borne pathogens. As safety measures were ignored there, the workers decided to do something about it.”

What you need to do right now

Along with knowing that a safe work environment is vital to your business, you should also take the time to make sure all measures are being taken. Foulke offers up the OSHA Inspection Checklist which outlines every set that needs to be taken for maximum safety and minimum citations.

Along with reading the checklist, visit www.osha.gov or call 800-321-OSHA, for more information. You can find the regulations at www.osha.gov/law-regs.html; your individual state regulations at www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/index.html; and training materials at http://www.osha.gov/dte/index.html.

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