One of my favorite topics to talk to students about in our CarWash College classes is safety.

It doesn’t matter what the topic of the week is — repair, maintenance, management or multi-site management — they all begin the same way: with the class reading aloud the safety requirements from the front of a Sonny’s equipment manual. I’ll stop them from reading at certain points and elaborate as to why that rule — or rules — are in effect and often show a video or pictures of what happened to someone who ignored the rules. Some of the videos and pictures are graphic and disturbing. That’s my intent.

There’s the x-ray of the forearm of a guy that didn’t lock out his conveyor power pack while working on his sprocket. The x-ray shows that his arm was broken clean in half. I then follow up with a picture that shows his forearm after the accident in a twisted, bloodied mess. Then there’s the guy that went after his cell phone that fell into the trench with the conveyor running. The picture shows his arm, with a tourniquet on it, hanging on by some tendons, bones exposed.

I show videos of big men being pulled into brushes when the hoses they are holding get caught and start to wrap around the brush’s hub. One video shows a kid approximately six-foot-two and 260 pounds being picked up and thrown around like a rag doll while his head is repeatedly run into an arch until his coworker finally turned off the wash.

I have literally dozens of grotesque photos and videos that I show every person that attends Car Wash College. I’ve made at least one person cry. I’ve made several students question their decision to enter the industry. GOOD!

After I show them all of these, I add that the carwash is overall a safe environment that becomes unsafe by us making it that way. And we make it an unsafe environment when we break safety guidelines, such as erecting ladders, allowing hoses to reach into the equipment, leaving tools behind after repairs or by neglecting to lock out any component to be serviced.

I only get one crack at a lot of these people, so I use shock value to help get my point across. It seems to help, as I usually get several requests to share the videos by the end of the week.

What are you doing at your washes to stress the importance of safety to your employees? Do your employees know the ramifications of breaking any of your safety policies? Are there any ramifications?

While you may not want to show gory videos or pictures, a safety presentation should be a part of all new employees’ orientations. At the least, it should include all of your safety rules, the reason behind them and the ramifications if they are to be broken. The breaking of any safety rules needs to be dealt with swiftly and harshly to emphasize their importance.

Safety meetings should be scheduled on a set cycle, and safety ideas brought by employees should be rewarded. If an accident does occur, a safety huddle should be held immediately after to document what went wrong and what needs to be addressed for it to not happen again.

Keeping our employees safe just makes sense: morally, ethically and financially. Address safety issues early on with new employees — often with all employees — and immediately if there is an issue, and you’ll create a safe environment the whole industry can be proud of.


Bob Fox has over 30 years of industry experience and is an instructor at CarWash College™. Bob can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit CarWash College or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.

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