Falling behind on documenting vehicle lift inspections in the service department is dangerous in itself. But it also can expose a dealership to unexpected and hefty fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"If anything happens — an accident, a snap inspection, even a disgruntled employee reporting a violation — the first thing OSHA wants to see is the lift inspection documentation," says Ed Gibbons, fixed operations specialist for Automotive Compliance Consulting Inc. of Crystal Lake, Ill.
"If it's not in order, there can be hefty fines," Gibbons told Fixed Ops Journal. "I've seen fines of $15,000."
Many lifts at dealerships and independent garages are in bad shape. Gibbons finds about a quarter of the lifts he inspects are out of compliance.
"I recently inspected lifts at a large dealership, and I failed 60 percent of them," he says. He did not identify the store.
Even at the majority of dealerships that perform inspections regularly, problems can include missing or improper documentation or inspections performed by people who aren't certified to do so.
That doesn't matter to OSHA, Gibbons says. "That paperwork is the first thing OSHA will ask to review if there's a complaint or injury, even if the injury that brought them there isn't related to the lifts," he adds.
The most common mechanical failures Gibbons finds are loose nuts on floor anchor bolts and broken or missing pins on two-part extension arms.
"The pins that prevent the extension arms from sliding are often undersized for the weight of the part and can shear off during use," Gibbons notes.
"The extension arms can weigh 50 pounds," he says. "If a swing arm falls eight feet onto a technician's foot, it can cause a serious injury."