4 Pillars of Car Wash Safety and Profitability

May 06, 2019

“Safety first.”

You’ve heard it a million times: From your mom, from your kindergarten teacher and even from the little guy on wet floor signs. But when it comes to operating a car wash, safety is sometimes treated as an extra or an afterthought.

It’s easy to put operational safety on the side when your main drive is keeping production high and costs low. Rubber mats and good posture may not pay the bills, but you’ll quickly find shrugging off safety can cost you dearly, not only in damage claims and higher insurance claims but also in damage to your reputation. In the worst cases, safety violations and other noncompliance issues can shut a site down for good.

All the little things you do to keep your site and employees safe will actually make you more productive, not less. Training, planning, and upkeep do wonders for reducing interruptions and keeping cars rolling through your tunnel.

A safe and profitable operation rests on four pillars:

  • General Safety
  • Mechanical Safety
  • Chemical Safety
  • Vehicle Safety

By building up each pillar, your car wash will stand head-and-shoulders above the rest.

General Safety: The Classics Never Go Out of Style

The penalties for violating or ignoring general safety policies can be severe, not to mention increasing your risk of incidents. At a minimum, you must comply with Occupational Health and Safety Association standards. There are way too many OSHA standards to list here, but this guide and OSHA’s employer page are great references. Note that if you have sites in states with their own OSHA laws, those standards override the federal ones.

  • Make sure ladders are up to spec and that your team doesn’t overload them.
  • Train employees on how to reduce slips and falls. Make sure guardrails and other protection systems are installed and intact.
    Keep walkways clear.
  • Remind employees of proper lifting methods and posture.
  • Review procedures for emergencies with your team.
  • Enforce clothing safety guidelines such as banning loose or baggy clothing that could catch on equipment.

If you ever want to double-check your site to keep from getting fined, OSHA offers free on-site consultations. You won’t be penalized for anything they find, and you may even qualify for a one-year exemption on your next inspection.

Mechanical Safety: Keeping Incidents on Lock

Your tunnel has a lot of large, moving parts. While each one delivers a fantastic wash for your customers, they are also a potential hazard for your team if you don’t take the right precautions.

Creating and enforcing policies to reduce risk is critical for preventing injury. One of the biggest things you can do is keep your team up-to-date with your site’s “lockout-tagout” procedures. Your LOTO process doesn’t just keep you kosher with the law; it protects the lives of your employees. Just having tags and locks isn’t enough. Train and refresh your team on your site’s LOTO and other equipment maintenance procedures on a regular basis.

  • Keep a daily, weekly and monthly equipment check record.
  • Keep employees away from machinery while in use.
  • Create an emergency stop procedure. For example, the employee who activated a stop is the only one who can restart the tunnel.
  • Clearly label areas and equipment with electrical hazards. Train employees on how to handle electrical equipment and what to do in case of an emergency.

The greater the distance you can place between your team and the active machinery in your tunnel, the better. This is one of the greatest benefits an automated, full tunnel anti-collision system like NoPileups.

Chemical Safety: Knowing is Half the Battle

It takes a number of chemicals to make a car nice and shiny, but they pose another risk. Proper handling, usage and storage of hazardous chemicals is essential to employee safety.

Again, having clear procedures in place is key. Your employees should be familiar with every chemical you use and how it should be handled. If there’s a spill, contact with skin or eyes or any other mishap, every employee needs to be ready to act fast and appropriately.

  • Make sure employees wear proper eye protection (goggles or face shields) and skin protection when handling chemicals.
  • Have copies of each chemical’s Safety Data Sheet on hand. If an employee needs to be taken to the hospital due to exposure, this info can expedite treatment and prevent serious or permanent injury.
  • Clearly mark any vessel used to store or handle hazardous chemicals. Don’t repurpose hazardous material containers, either, as this can create confusion.

Vehicle Safety: Protect Your Customers and Their Cars

Vehicle safety may not be top of mind because of all of the other safety concerns you must address before a single customer rolls in. However, customer vehicles can do serious damage to your equipment and cause injury to employees and even other customers.

  • Post (and enforce) speed limits, stop signs and other signage.
  • Give clear and simple directions to your customers.
  • Use a consistent, one-directional flow to keep vehicles moving at an even, predictable pace.

NoPileups adds another layer of safety. If a customer does something unexpected, like shifting out of neutral, NoPileups can prevent an accident that may otherwise cause damage and injury.

Always Remember: Safety First

Operating a safe car wash can feel daunting, but it’s worth it, and not just for the sake of profitability. A shining reputation is a point of pride you’ll feel every time a customer safely leaves your tunnel. Your employees will get more done knowing they work somewhere that takes their well-being seriously.

While these tips are only a small piece of keeping your sites incident-free, they go a long way in making sure your car wash is as safe as it is successful.

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