Q: What are the potential hazards a dealership should be aware of and actively addressing?
A: The truth is hazards can lie anywhere in and around a dealership. And no matter how vigilant leaders think they are, they can't stand guard over employees at every turn of a wrench. Management teams should develop safety plans in collaboration with employees — educating and retraining where necessary — to empower them to eliminate risk and help improve safety measures where needed.
How can a dealership best balance its efforts and resources to be in compliance while actively addressing other risk management exposures that can help prevent losses?
A dealership's first step should be creating a workplace that fosters safety, not just compliance.
Managing risk is a moving target, but it's worth it long term to help prevent significant losses. It requires regular reviews of a safety plan that address a dealership's inherent risks, and consistent effort to abide by the plan.
If a dealership's employees don't adhere to a safety plan, injuries and property damage are more likely to occur. That can lead to substantial losses for the employer — including loss of productivity and business, increased insurance premiums and, when necessary, training costs associated with replacing an employee.
When a dealership nurtures a culture of safety, employees are supported in making safe choices, they are proactive in addressing risks, and they take the steps necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of themselves and those they work alongside.
What are the top 4 operational risks that can cause violations and/or incurred losses to a dealership's fixed operations areas?
1. Slips and falls: The condition of flooring — and how they're maintained — can lead to serious injuries to employees throughout your shops, lot areas and showroom. The best strategy to avoid preventable slip/trip incidents is regular maintenance of flooring and lot areas, along with ensuring housekeeping is an active ongoing effort by all employees. Keep in mind these practices benefit the health and safety of employees and customers, making them well worth the effort.
2. Hand tool safety: Employee use of hand tools is a particular concern in a service operation. Be sure employees are aware of the hazards associated with broken or damaged tools, which can cause laceration or electrical-shock injuries. Remove hazardous tools from active use.
3. Hazardous materials: Ensure communication plans are in place for handling, storing and using hazardous chemicals. Injuries from hazardous materials can occur when chemicals splash into the eyes and face, the chemicals are inhaled or there is a reaction to a generalized chemical exposure. Injuries may be caused by lack of sufficient training in handling chemicals as well as by not communicating the potential hazards.
4. Respiratory protection: Make sure employees are protected when working in confined spaces. The air in a dealership can be unsafe to breathe at times. There may be contaminants in the air, including hazardous fumes and harmful dusts, gases, smokes, sprays and vapors. If employees are working in confined spaces without proper ventilation or gear, such as a respirator, this can cause injury — either immediately or over the long term.
How can management and employees use OSHA data to improve their safety plan?
It's important for everyone at the dealership — management and employees — to embrace an OSHA report as a tool. Instead of fearing a violation or surprise visit, be proactive and take stock of potential hazards. Managers should proactively review safety procedures in place, the age and condition of equipment and tools, the safety training that needs to be completed among employees, and accuracy of the dealership's safety and incident records.
Another way for a dealership to bolster safety is to contact its insurance company's loss prevention and safety services team. Many insurance companies have a team that will help a policyholder implement a more efficient and effective safety program. This includes providing training and resource materials. You should also consult local experts to address your specific circumstances.
Injuries among employees are not always directly linked to an OSHA standard. What are a few examples, and how can they be prevented?
The reality is while a dealership needs to maintain its compliance with regulatory requirements as specified by OSHA, the management team needs to focus on where injuries are occurring in the workplace. These risks may not necessarily fall under OSHA's oversight. For example, when an employee suffers a lower back injury, shoulder strain, or knee or ankle injury — most often due to improper lifting techniques — that's outside of OSHA's standards but still a risk to the business.
Encourage employees to take precautions while lifting — and train them in the proper way to do so. As more workplaces take a holistic approach to the health and safety of their employees, partnerships with gyms, health clubs and mental health programs can also help dealerships improve employee well-being. These are areas not directly linked to an OSHA standard but can prove fruitful when an employee remains healthy and on the job serving customers well.