I often walk into a dealership that I have never visited before and ask if they think they are in compliance with OSHA and EPA regulations and if their facility is safe. “Would you be prepared to answer my questions if I were a compliance officer? Would your employees be prepared?”
Many of those responses would include,
“I think we are okay.“
“Not great – not bad – just OK.”
They think there are probably some things I will find if I conduct an inspection of their facility, but mostly they think they are okay. After my inspection and meeting, I ask them the same question again and they explain that it was an eye-opening experience. They are completely surprised at the number of items that I was able to observe and all the infractions I was able to point out regarding their safety and compliance and potential liability.
Honestly, I never like to find what I call “hazards,” because that means that something is really unsafe and could potentially cause a really bad accident involving an injury or worse. On the other hand, I’m glad that I do observe them so I can point them out and possibly prevent a loss.
If you have a consulting company like KPA or a third party coming into your facility to do these inspections, that is wonderful. You can keep an audit and inspection program going internally in your department, but complacency is a big threat. If your business becomes complacent and doesn’t try out new ideas, it will be surpassed by its competitors. The same threat can happen to the safety of the work environment.
Complacency eventually causes accidents.
It’s a great idea to bring in another set of eyes to the scenario. Even if you have someone from another department inspect your department, that’s a start. I would highly recommend regular inspections of your facility to try and prevent hazards from forming.
Let’s go through a few things that I see as potential facility liabilities in hope that you can take this information into your shop and start eliminating or correcting these situations.
If OSHA or the EPA came onsite, the first thing they will most likely do is sit down and have a conversation about why they are there and review your paperwork. This could include training documents, waste disposal records, regulatory required paperwork, etc.
- Have you characterized your waste?
You are required to evaluate what waste you generate, what you do with it, whether it’s hazardous or not, and how you know whether or not it’s hazardous. This has to be documented. A waste characterization form on each waste generated is ideal.
- Have you done a personal protective equipment hazard assessment?
You are required to analyze the jobs that are completed by your staff, what hazards are created by those jobs and what hazards your employees are exposed to, and can you prevent those hazards. If you cannot prevent those hazards, what personal protective equipment are your employees required to wear to prevent that exposure. By the way, you are required to supply that personal protective equipment to your staff. This also has to be documented.
- Have your automotive lifts been inspected?
This is required to be completed annually by a qualified automotive lift inspector. Have you also completed annual automotive lift safety training with your technicians?
- Does your floor drain lead into an oil/water separator?
If so, when was the last time you had it cleaned out? Is that documentation on file somewhere?
- Have you registered your AC machines with the EPA?
Do you have documentation to prove this? Also, do you have all technicians’ AC certifications on file? This is not their master certification on heating and air, this is the EPA section 609 training on refrigerant, recovery, and recycling.
- Do you have more than 1,320 gallons of capacity with your petroleum product tanks?
This includes new oil, used oil, ATF, gasoline, diesel fuel, etc. If you have more than 1,320 capacity, you are required to have an SPCC plan as well as secondary containment around all your sources (55 gal and up).
- Do your employees have access to Safety Data Sheets?
Are they in an updated book or online? Either is fine, as long as they are updated and every employee has been trained on how to access them. By the way, this training has to be documented and cover other aspects of chemical labeling and chemical hazards.
- Do you have a forklift on-site?
Do you have documentation to prove that forklift training has been completed at your facility and is up to date? Has the forklift been inspected?
- If you have a parts department, is everyone up to date on DOT Hazardous Material shipping training?
If you are involved with any airbag recall and you are shipping those back, you must have this training.
- If you have a body shop, do you know if you need an air permit?
Many state EPAs require this for facilities with paint booths.
- If you have employees wearing respirators, are they up to date with their training?
You need a medical clearance on file for anyone wearing a respirator. Those employees need to be fit tested annually. And if they are spraying paint from an HVLP gun, you need to have up-to-date 6H Painter training completed.
- Are you keeping waste records for all waste leaving your facility?
This includes used oil, tires, batteries, antifreeze, light bulbs, waste paint, etc.
This may seem overwhelming, but it is just a small example of the conversation that the regulator will have with you in your office prior to even going out in the shop. What I would recommend is having a file cabinet just for this type of documentation. I would not store all of these documents in multiple places, like the parts department, service manager’s office, or business office. If you are able to retrieve any documentation needed from one place, it typically makes the regulatory visit go much smoother. Keep in mind you will never get any one regulator looking for all of this. These regulations come from multiple agencies including OSHA, EPA, DOT, Fire Code, etc. If you are not using a company to assist you in compliance, you need to ask yourself if anyone at your organization is on top of this? A simple, “Sure we have all of that,” will not suffice, it should be verified by auditing your compliance.
The next step for the compliance officer is to enter and complete an inspection of the work areas.
Here is just a small list of citable offenses that are very typical to observe, and these are all potential liabilities in either a regulatory fine or employee accident/injury.
- Bench grinders.
Do they have all the parts and pieces? Tool rests, tongue guards, eye shields, side guards, mounted, etc.
- Compressed gas cylinders.
Are they secured? Do they have the valve caps on? Are oxygen and acetylene stored separately?
- Chemical containers and pumps.
Does everything that contains a liquid (including used oil) have a label on it? Tanks, drums, and roll arounds. Are the pumps to the tank labeled also?
Is the battery core area contained so it won’t leak battery acid? Is the area labeled as corrosive?
- Flammable containers.
Are your metal drums of brake clean or solvent with a metal pump grounded? Do you have any plastic gas cans that are bigger than 1 gallon – if so, those are required to be metal safety cans? Make sure nothing flammable is stored under a staircase.
- Eyewash stations.
Do you have an eyewash station in your facility? Does this eyewash provide at least 15 minutes of flow? Is this eyewash station accessible to anyone who needs it within 100 feet? Are you inspecting these eyewash stations monthly?
- Electrical panels.
Are these all accessible and not blocked? Are all the switches labeled? Are there any open spaces in the panel that need to be filled with a blank?
- Fire extinguishers.
Are you doing monthly inspections on these and documenting on the tags? Are they all accessible? Are any on the floor that need to be mounted? Do they all have arrows or indicators pointing to them?
- Electrical cords.
Do all extension cords have the ground plug? Are any extension cords used for permanent wiring that should be fixed? Are there any multiple power strips plugged together? Do all battery chargers have the ground plug? Are there any cords that have been repaired or spliced? If so, those need to be replaced.
This is also just a small sample of the things that might be looked at and cited by a regulatory officer or cause accidents and injuries to your employees. If you do have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to us. I am always willing to guide employers and employees in a safe direction. Stay safe out there!