Collision repair shops potentially expose shop owners, employees, contractors and clients to a variety of chemical and physical hazards. These may include volatile organics from paints, fillers and solvents; silica from sandblasting operations; dusts from sanding; metal fumes from welding and cutting; repetitive physical stress; and ergonomic injuries.
An effective safety program is crucial to any operation that wants to achieve productivity gains and reduced costs.
Why should your shop develop a written safety program? Developing a written process that provides employees with a clear definition of what is required to maintain a safe work environment can help prevent incidents causing injury, loss of assets and business interruption. Such programs establish and provide procedures, guidelines and documentation for safety practices, such as equipment inspection, training, evaluation of contractors and performance review through job observations.
Anything less would be a failure of your safety system.
Management’s Commitment, Staff Involvement
Where should your shop begin? A good place to start, when developing a program, is to obtain a commitment from management to provide a safe working environment.
Management’s commitment provides the motivating force and resources for organizing and controlling activities within your shop. Most important is the allocating or budgeting of money for safety programs.
Through regular, visible involvement—and establishing a written safety and health policy that’s signed, dated and posted for everyone to see—management will set the stage for employee involvement. Without management’s commitment, it is difficult to enforce a policy, and the efforts of safety personnel may be in vain.
The final commitment from management needs to be an assessment or review process. Frequent assessments determine how well your shop’s safety and health process is working and where the process may need improvement. An internal team or a third party can conduct this assessment.
Employees at every level of your shop also need to be involved in the safety and health process. The more they participate, the more functional the process will be. In addition, employees will take safe practices home with them, where most of the disabling injuries occur.
There are many opportunities for employees to participate in safety and health programs. Such opportunities include the following:
- Participation in safety committees
- Incident investigations
- Emergency response teams
- Development of operating procedures and job safety analyses (JSAs)
- Presentations of training topics
What Needs to be in Writing?
With thorough assessments, your shop can determine what written procedures and guidelines are necessary. Information for these assessments can be gathered by asking a few questions.
One indicator that certain safety programs are needed involve job safety analyses (JSAs). JSAs should be established for each job task. They break down each step into a task, identify potential hazards within each step and develop the protective measures to prevent the hazard from causing an injury.
Upon completion of the JSA assessment, your shop should evaluate the results and begin writing the procedures and guidelines. If the assessment determines a need for written procedures and guidelines, the task should be assigned to someone who can ensure that they are developed, implemented and updated as necessary. At a minimum, a written safety process should include the following:
- proper meeting and control of safety and health hazards
- incident reporting
- emergency programs and procedures
- division of responsibility and accountability
Controlling and Monitoring Hazards
Government safety and health regulations must be observed in both design and operations in order to help control hazards. Active tools for maintaining safe working conditions include everything from mechanical integrity to housekeeping inspections to site safety and health procedures.
Preventive maintenance procedures should be written into the plan as well. These procedures should be included for various kinds of equipment, such as eyewash/safety shower units and grounding systems.
When conducting an orientation with a new employee, your shop must show commitment toward employee safety and welfare. With a solid safety orientation, you are conveying to your new employee that his or her well-being is important to you.
Orientation training should include operating procedures, so that employees understand requirements to complete a task safely. Continued training should be conducted even for employees who simply transfer into a new position or department, as well as when procedures are reviewed or updated.
Write a training schedule that is job/area specific for each job in your shop. The following are training topics required by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) that need to be completed in an appropriate timeframe:
- respiratory protection
- hearing conservation
- confined space entry and
- fire extinguishers.
Finally, it is the responsibility of your shop to ensure that contractors—for example, electricians—are properly trained, well informed and evaluated. Contractors need to be aware of what is required of them, shop policies and procedures, and what to do in the event of an emergency.
Incident Reporting and Analysis
Any safety incident should be viewed as an opportunity to improve the safety and health process. A written incident reporting system should include the following:
- when and to whom an employee, visitor or contractor should report an incident;
- how an investigation will be conducted; and
- who determines corrective actions and who tracks them to completion.
Your shop should analyze the findings from the investigation, develop corrective actions, track to completion and communicate the findings to employees. If this is done, the chances of the incident recurring will greatly decrease.
Questions about creating and implementing your shop safety program are likely to crop up, and it can be difficult to find the appropriate answers. Here are some resources to assist you in creating your shop safety program:
CCAR-GreenLink: CCAR-GreenLink is the National Automotive Environmental Compliance Assistance Center for the automotive repair industry. It is operated by the Coordinating Committee For Automotive Repair (CCAR) in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All documents found at CCAR-GreenLink (www.ccar-greenlink.org) are created by federal or state EPA and OSHA offices, as well as the automotive industry. CCAR-GreenLink is available 24 hours a day to help persons engaged in automotive service, collision repair and other sectors of the automotive industry better understand their environmental responsibilities, and to help them achieve compliance with environmental program requirements.
S/P2:“S/P2” is an online, Internet-based training product developed and licensed by CCAR to train automotive service (mechanical) and collision repair (auto body) professionals in safety & pollution prevention issues. The site is located at www.sp2.org.
OSHA–Autobody Repair and Refinishing Tool: A resource site that provides safety and health information about autobody repair and refinishing. The site is located at www.osha.gov/ SLTC/autobody/.
Motorist Assurance Program (MAP): MAP serves to strengthen the relationship between the motorist and the automotive service and repair industry through education of the motorist and service provider, and through the creation of industry standards.The site is located at www.motorist.org.
Design for the Environment (DfE) Auto Refinish Project: The DFE Program is working with the automotive repair industry and individual shops to increase awareness of the health and environmental concerns associated with refinishing activities and to identify and encourage the use of safer, cleaner, more efficient practices and technologies.Online at www.epa.gov/opptintr/dfe/projects/auto/.
CCAR-OSHA Alliance: The OSHA and CCAR alliance provides the automotive industry, including but not limited to youth and Spanish-speaking workers, with information, guidance and access to training resources that will help them protect employees’ health and safety. Find it online at www.osha.gov/dcsp/ alliances/ccar/ccar.html.
Remember, safety and health programs should not be viewed as a hindrance, but as an opportunity to better your shop’s loss record.