Glorianna Corman is a senior risk management consultant at KPA, an environment, health and safety, and work force compliance software and services provider for midsize businesses, including franchised dealerships. KPA is based near Boulder, Colo., and performs audits across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. Corman, 40, spoke with Fixed Ops Journal about what the pandemic means for workplace safety as well as how the Biden administration may affect dealership service departments. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What could the new administration in Washington mean for franchised dealerships in terms of regulation and compliance?
A: Generally, under Democratic leadership we expect to see increased regulations and increased [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and EPA enforcement. Franchised dealerships in the U.S. will need to be prepared for stricter regulations across the board, but especially around COVID-19 and respiratory projection.
What should dealerships do now to prepare for any new enforcement?
- Every dealership should have, at a minimum, the required OSHA and EPA programs on file, and all staff should be trained. Create a safety committee to evaluate the workplace for safety hazards, and have them meet regularly.
- Because of COVID-19, paint departments and body shops are having a hard time finding the correct respiratory equipment. OSHA requires this equipment to be used on the job. Body shop workers who don't paint or prime should be using masks like N95s, while painters and primers should be using respirators. Anyone using a respirator must be medically cleared, annually fit-tested, respiratory- trained and clean shaven. Keep extra stock on hand of all respiratory protection equipment to avoid any type of OSHA citation. Do not share respiratory equipment.
- Often, detail departments are staffed by younger people who don't have a lot of experience. This is where I see the most violations — things like chemical bottles being labeled incorrectly (bottles must have the name of the product and hazard warning and/or statement), or there's an electrical cord in bad condition running across a wet floor. Make sure your detail department knows what they should be doing or looking out for to ensure everyone's safety on the job.
- Check out OSHA's top 10 most frequently cited violations of 2020 to get an idea for where [they] will likely be focusing enforcement efforts.
How will new COVID rules impact dealerships?
COVID safety programs are migrating from "nice to have" to "essential" for dealerships across the country. OSHA published a National Emphasis Program on March 12, which enforces and fines workplace violations centering on COVID-19. There will be a focus on industries that present high risks to people and the environment — meaning dealerships are going to be more closely monitored. They are not directly on the [North American Industry Classification System] watchlist, but there is always potential.
OSHA is also set to announce an emergency temporary standard [soon]. The ETS will likely require employers to create a company-specific plan to minimize worker exposure to COVID- 19. The rule is expected to mandate mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing breaks and communication procedures for workers during outbreaks. The standard is expected to require a written COVID plan, a workplace COVID hazard assessment and COVID training for all workplaces to implement.
What are some of the challenges for dealerships when it comes to OSHA enforcement and compliance?
Simply put: Dealers don't know what they don't know when it comes to OSHA and EPA enforcement and compliance.
One of the biggest challenges for dealership leaders is that they may not know how to be in compliance if they're too busy managing their day-to-day work. That's why, usually, dealers look for consultants for support on understanding and managing environmental health and safety programs.
What are some tips for dealerships to make sure they have a safe and healthy workplace?
- A safety culture starts with your dealership's core values. These values should emphasize adhering to employee safety, knowledge of safety protocols and proactive risk elimination. Pair your core values with recognition to encourage employees to take part in your core value program.
- Recognize employees who go above and beyond when it comes to workplace safety. And make sure to do it in front of the entire dealership and at monthly safety meetings. This recognition should highlight how that employee's actions benefit the dealership.
- Instead of focusing on negative reinforcement or punishment for bad behaviors, focus on rewarding employees for good behavior. While your safety program should be set up to avoid accidents, it should prioritize rewarding safe behaviors.
- It's not enough to just put safety in your core values. Start with meeting the basics, like taking part in training and being fully OSHA compliant. Keep your records public and visible to make sure that your employees care as much about safety as you do.
- Safety comes from the top down, and upper-level management must be involved in safety programs and initiatives. By management setting a positive example by prioritizing and practicing safety, employees will be most likely to follow suit.