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Prepare for Increased OSHA Inspections

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In 2014, 190 auto repair shops were inspected and cited for OSHA inspections. Although that number may sound low, if your shop is one of those, potential fines could strike a big blow to your business. With new OSHA regulations established in 2015, inspections are expected to increase in the coming year. According to Bob Medved, senior account manager and industry representative at S/P2, a safety and pollution prevention training organization, that means shops need to start taking OSHA regulations more seriously. Medved discusses the biggest regulatory issues for shops and how they can prepare for a possible OSHA inspection.

 

As told to Anna Zeck

What are the biggest areas of concern for shops?

The first thing a shop should be concerned with is training their employees. It’s a tough sell in the collision repair industry. There are a lot of people that never got hurt or aren’t concerned with what they’ve been exposed to. There’s a lot of attitude about that out there. On the flip side, there are just as many stories about shops exploding or burning to the ground. OSHA doesn’t show up very often, but when they do, you could be spending a lot of money on fines. 

In January of this year, the OSHA recordkeeping rule was updated. It’s become a lot more stringent on what shops have to report to OSHA. Also in the same vein, there have been some changes to the Hazard Communication Standard, which is a standard on how you communicate potential hazards with employees. OSHA is starting to take their Hazard Communication Standard and bring it into alignment with the Global Harmonized System of Classification. That is a global structure, as opposed to just the U.S. 

Before, OSHA was under the opinion that every employee should be communicated to through a right-to-know policy. Now it’s a right-to-understand policy. Not only do they have to hear it, they have to understand what kind of hazards they are up against when they go into a shop. That’s changed.

Why do shops need to take OSHA guidelines seriously?

You have to be able to identify exposures in your business that may be blocking you from protecting your staff. And you need to know how to improve your shop. The fines get to be expensive. They start at $7,500. The thing is, training is cheap and the fines are unbelievable. If an OSHA inspector walks into a shop, asks for documentation and you have a certificate, the inspector can easily see you’re probably good. If the shop owner doesn’t have anything, OSHA is going in the back and you know they’re going to find something. They will also come back and recheck after a period of time. 

The other thing to consider is protecting the health and safety of veteran workers. They’re the ones that are the hardest to convince because they don’t think it affects them. There has to be that attitude shift. That starts with the shop owners being serious about it. The cost associated with workplace injuries are really high. Consider the loss of productivity of losing your A tech for eight weeks because of injury. Workers’ compensation claims are expensive. I don’t think you can afford not to have a safety plan in place. The industry needs to start thinking about this. 

“As far as an independent shop goes, depending on how severe the fine is, that one [OSHA] visit could put them out of business.” 
—Bob Medved, senior account manager, S/P2

Can having a safety plan help with recruiting new employees?

You always hear people say that they can’t find good technicians. Well, they’re out there. But younger people today, when they consider going into this industry at all, still believe the old stereotypes exist. Younger people don’t want anything to do with that. The reality is that shops today that are worth their weight are a very clean environment. But, that’s still a stereotype. Younger people are more environmentally and health conscious than anyone has been before. They’ve been raised in a world where it’s been about caring for the environment. 

If shops want to attract new young talent, you have to show them that you’re serious about safety and pollution prevention. I’ve had cases where a bright young student will get a job in a shop. They’ll be dressed up in the right personal protection equipment, like they’re supposed to wear. The other guys in the shop that have been there for a while look at him and laugh and make fun of him. 

I’m on the Skills USA committee. One of the categories is the interview competition. After I’m done interviewing the students, there’s a safety aspect to it. They’re head and shoulders above the rest. They’re aware of all the safety gear. They have to follow all the safety rules when they’re in competition. Most of them know exactly what they are because they’re trained in school. If the shop just doesn’t follow it, it’s no wonder they’re looking for something else.

“Our bottom-line conversation with the shop is protect your business, your employees and yourself.”
—Bob Medved, senior account manager, S/P2 

Why is a safety plan necessary?

Our bottom-line conversation with the shop is protect your business, your employees and yourself. Everyone hates to pay for insurance, but when you need it, it’s nice to have it. Some people have insurance their whole life and they never have a claim. Some people think, ‘That was a waste of money.’ But others buy insurance and a month later, they have a million dollar claim that’s going to be covered. 

It’s about insuring yourself against potential lawsuits from an employee, fines, workers’ compensation claims. OSHA requires that employees receive annual training to stay updated on the latest regulations, so it is something that will come up at least once a year in your shop.

What is the biggest obstacle in getting shops to understand the importance of OSHA guidelines?

They don’t take it seriously. They may not have had an OSHA inspector there in forever. OSHA is very random in what they do. If they do show up, you better be ready. By not training their employees, shops are taking a chance that they won’t be caught. As far as an independent shop goes, depending on how severe the fine is, that one visit could put them out of business. 

But besides that, it’s also about the health and wellbeing of the employees that work there. The threats range from fires, explosions; the material waste isn’t grounded properly; they have prep stations where their technicians are spraying primer and they’re wearing a particle mask. The chemicals today are far worse than they ever have been. There are a lot of rules and regulations that you have to follow. Many preventable injuries and illnesses happen in body shops and you can take steps to help prevent those starting today. 

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