Regulations Body Shops Mostly Break

What Regulations Do Body Shops Mostly Break?

Both the EPA and OSHA respond.

It sometimes seems as if there’s a government
official waiting around every corner of your shop … waiting
to cite and fine you for something you haven’t registered, posted
or otherwise complied with. But, in reality, it’s unlikely that
your shop will come to the government’s attention unless a serious
accident occurs or a disgruntled employee or unhappy neighbor
phones in a complaint. However, once an official is in your shop,
he’s often able to discover enough noncompliance to write you
a hefty fine.

What are the most likely noncompliance issues?
We asked that very question to both the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The Top Five OSHA Violations

The OSHA Directorate of Compliance programs
were able to quickly identify the top five OSHA violations in
body shops.

1. The most common citation was for a violation
of the 1910.1200 section of the OSHA standards – the well-known
“Hazard Communication” section.

The goal of this section is to identify and
evaluate the hazards present from any chemicals used in the workplace.
Once the potential hazards are known, the employees must be informed
of the risks and the necessary precautions to protect their health.
This, of course, includes acquiring Material Safety Data Sheets
(MSDS), keeping every container in the shop labeled correctly
and having a written program that documents the employee training

If you haven’t kept up your MSDS binder or
kept the mixed color in correctly labeled cans or if you’ve failed
to either train, or document the training of, your employees,
your shop is in violation of 1910.1200.

2. Running a close second in the volume of
citations to body shops from the OSHA inspector is General Industry
Standard 1910.107 – Spray Finishing Using Flammable and Combustible

This section deals with the construction of
the spraybooth itself, the speed of the air moving through the
booth (100 feet per minute – FPM), the fire protection and the
electrical wiring, including lighting. The shops incurring these
citations were spraying paint in less-than-acceptable areas.

You don’t necessarily need a new $50,000 booth
to comply, but you may need to spend some money to improve the
safety of your present spray facilities. The upside is the changes
that will make your spray painting safer will also likely improve
the quality of the finished paint job; while increasing the air
flow to 100 FPM meets the requirement for operator safety, it
also speeds up the dry times on the paint.

3. The No. 3 violation in body shops is Standard
1910.134 – Respiratory Protection.

Not surprisingly, when the OSHA inspector
walks over to watch your painters work and they aren’t wearing
the correct – or, more typically, any – respirator, a fine is

The government is concerned that your employees
are safely protected from harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases,
smokes, sprays or vapors. And it seems pretty clear that spraying
automotive paints falls into these regulated areas.

The standard requires that the shop has a
written respirator program and that employees be given fitting
instructions. Often, your paint jobber can provide a training
and fit testing session that will meet these requirements. And
remember, the government wants to see all your plans in writing,
including who was trained and when. If you can’t produce these
training records, you’re still in violation of this standard.

4. The No. 4 violation is 1910.106 – Flammable
and Combustible Liquids.

This section addresses the problems that all
those flammable solvents bring into your shop. (The good folks
at OSHA would prefer that your employees don’t explode when they
light up a smoke in the solvent-laden air of the paint room.)

This section of the standards also defines
some commonly used terms that are often misunderstood in our industry,
such as “flashpoint,” which means the minimum temperature
at which a liquid gives off vapor within a test vessel in sufficient
concentration to form an ignitable mixture with the air near the
surface of the liquid. Combustible liquids reach that stage of
vapor load at temperatures more than 100 degrees F. Flammable
liquids are ready to form an ignitable mixture below 100 degrees

Most of the primers, solvents and paints used
in autobody are flammable liquids. Since these all have the potential
to injure your employees, OSHA will cite your facility if your
shop isn’t handling, storing, venting and using these products
in compliance with the standards.

Since virtually every paint product in the
shop has the ability to form an ignitable mixture with air, the
key to preventing a catastrophe is to remove every source of ignition.
When those pesky electrical and fire inspectors are giving you
grief about hard wiring the machinery and using explosion-proof
motors in risky atmospheres, they’re just trying to keep any spark
from igniting what’s clearly an ignitable mix. (And, keep in mind
that all the expensive wiring in the world won’t help if the painters
are regularly lighting matches in the paint room!)

5. The next most commonly violated standard
is 1910.157 – Portable Fire Extinguishers.

Appropriately, the law wants you to have a
reliable method to extinguish a fire once it starts. This section
requires the employer to provide portable fire extinguishers and
to mount, locate and identify them so they’re readily accessible
to employees without subjecting employees to possible injury.
The placement, use, maintenance and testing of extinguishers are
designed to make sure the painters can find them, grab them and
use them when the fire starts.

What’s the most likely catastrophe of any
kind to strike your body shop? Fire! Consider that your local
schools have a fire drill every few months so your 5-year-old
neighbor kid knows exactly what to do and where to go when the
alarm sounds. But, in a typical body shop, no one has ever said
a word about what to do when a fire starts. Yet your shop is a
lot more likely to catch fire than the grade school is – that
solvent-soaked masking paper will burn just great when the sparks
from the plasma cutter fly into it.

Good housekeeping will likely do more than
any other single thing to prevent a fire in a body shop. Grounding
the thinner drums will prevent an ignition source from catching
the vapors on fire from a static spark. And while forbidding smoking
anywhere near the paint room will greatly reduce the risk of fire,
simply confining and removing the trash twice a day will probably
do more good.

OSHA Compliance

Complying with the OSHA standards can be confusing
and time consuming, so each state has at least one agency designed
to help you meet the OSHA standards and keep your workplace safe.
Years ago, it was difficult to get any neutral help in complying
with the requirements because the inspectors often couldn’t offer
advice – they could only write citations. These days, your area
will likely have two or three agencies, departments, committees
or bureaus that would like nothing more than a chance to give
you some free counsel about OSHA compliance.

EPA Compliance

To discover what the EPA considers its most
common body shop citations, I ended up speaking with the Coordinating
Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR). The Clean Air Act (CAA)
of 1990 made some sweeping changes affecting our industry. However,
the CAA also provided funding to establish neutral sources of
assistance to help regulated businesses comply with the goal of
pollution prevention. One of these technical-assistance providers
is CCAR – a nonprofit group whose only purpose is to help automotive
aftermarket people – like you – comply with the law.

CCAR has just completed the very first national
study on the aftermarket’s state of compliance regarding EPA rules
and regulations. Five different colleges participated in gathering
the information from 440 autobody and auto service shops around
the country, and both automotive and environmental college students
conducted the polling after an instructor from each school attended
training in Atlanta, Ga., to establish uniform criteria. They
wanted to judge the actual state of compliance with the existing
federal EPA regulations.

From March through September 1997, the five
schools gathered information based on a common guidance document.
They were seeking information on two levels: to get a general
sense of how compliant the shops were and to ask explicit questions
about how the shops handled specific hazardous waste problems.
They divided the information into shops that were located in rural
or urban areas to see if one segment was more compliant, and they
further divided the automotive service respondents into four groups;
dealers, franchises, service shops and body shops. The body shops
represented 28 percent of the businesses polled.

No body shop in the survey was a large-quantity
generator (more than five 55-gallon drums of waste per month).
However, 90 percent of the shops surveyed were small-quantity
generators (more than one-half of a 55-gallon drum each month).
The last 10 percent were conditionally exempt waste generators
that produce less than 220 pounds in any one month. In total,
body shops were the second most compliant group, with new car
dealers being the most compliant. Franchises were third, and service
shops were fourth.

Predictably, the urban shops of any description
were more compliant than the rural shops. This might be attributable
to stricter enforcement of community regulations in larger cities,
to better information among urban shops or to greater exposure
to various compliance vendors (waste haulers, Treatment, Storage
& Disposal [TSD] facilities).

Top EPA Violations

Regarding EPA violations, CCAR’s study found

1. The area of least compliance was the posting
of emergency phone numbers.

As a waste generator, you’re required to post
phone numbers near telephones in case of a spill or other waste-related
emergency. These phone numbers should include the local fire department,
the National Response Center (800-424-8802), any local hazardous-waste
response team, and the name and phone number of the facility’s
emergency-response coordinator (probably the shop owner).

2. Another area of lower compliance for body
shops was the storage and labeling of spent solvents.

As a generator, while the hazardous waste
is in your control, you’re required to clearly mark each container
with “Hazardous Waste” and the date you began to collect
waste in that container. You must also keep the containers in
good condition and replace any leaking ones. The container is
to be kept closed except when filling or emptying it. The containers
must be inspected every week for leaks or corrosion, and the shop
needs to have a written record that those inspections were made
each week. The stored waste must then be treated or legally removed
within nine months.

One area of confusion here is the closed-container
prohibition. During the course of a typical day in a paint shop,
painters dump excess paint products many times. If the painter
has to remove the bung from the waste drum, pour in the waste
and screw the bung back tightly each time, lots of expensive labor
time is wasted every day.

But the EPA’s concern about your waste solvent
is different from the local fire inspector’s concern. The fire
inspector is worried that the open container will emit enough
solvent to cause an ignitable mixture with the air near the bung
hole. In some cities, this problem can be overcome by using a
spring-loaded funnel. The funnel lid snaps shut after every use,
and the solvent fumes are contained. On the other hand, the EPA
inspector’s concern is that the hazardous waste not pour out onto
the ground if the drum is knocked over, so having the bung screwed
tightly in place will keep the waste from spilling out. One possible
solution to satisfy both requirements is to use the spring-loaded
funnel to keep the fumes contained and chain the drum to the wall
so it can’t be tipped over.

3. The next most common violation is the actual
disposal of wastes.

In every case, the generator of the waste
is responsible for it forever, so be sure to choose a hazardous-waste
hauler that has the correct EPA permit to haul waste and hauls
the waste to a properly permitted TSD facility. Remember, even
if you used a permitted hauler that dumped in a permitted site,
you remain responsible for the waste you generated.

You’ll pass an EPA inspection with flying
colors if your in-house waste is correctly labeled and stored
and if you can produce two copies of every manifest that showed
your waste legally leaving your shop and arriving at its destination.
The waste hauler should leave one copy of the manifest (a five-part
shipping document) with your shop when he leaves, and you should
have a second copy mailed back from the TSD facility in roughly
30 days. Keep these on file to prove you legally disposed of the
waste you generated.

Compliance Help

Getting additional compliance help is as easy
as visiting the CCAR Web site. CCAR has more than 100 affiliate
members, with everyone’s goal being to help the automotive-service
aftermarket comply with environmental regulations.

This particular project dealing with hazardous
waste is called Greenlink. By going to (,
you can visit CCAR’s virtual service shop. What you see on screen
is a typical auto service bay with lights in the ceiling, drains
in the floor, storage tanks by the walls and a car on the hoist.
By moving the mouse to any item in the virtual shop and clicking,
you’ll then be linked to an appropriate environmental assistance
site. For example, click on the light fixtures and see a page
of information about the legal requirements for lighting in hazardous
environments. Click on the used-oil drum and connect with appropriate
information on waste-oil management.

Note: CCAR will have a virtual body shop site
on line this spring. If you don’t have Internet access, you can
call CCAR at (913) 498-2227.

On the Right Side of the Law

Keeping current with all the things the federal
government wants your shop to do can be frustrating – no doubt
about it. But remember that OSHA regulations are primarily designed
to make your business a safe place to work. Who can argue that’s
not important? EPA regulations are designed to keep the Earth
a friendly place for our descendants – also an admirable goal.

The fact is, even if you don’t think these
regulations are admirable, you still have to comply with them.
Take the time now to understand the issues and to gather the information
to keep you in compliance. In the long run, you, your employees
and your bank account will be better off.

Writer Mark Clark, owner of Clark Supply
Corporation in Waterloo, Iowa, is a contributing editor to BodyShop

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