Safety Guide: Creating a Safety Culture for a Competitive Edge

Safety Guide: Creating a Safety Culture for a Competitive Edge

What can auto repair companies do to attract, hire and retain young talent? The first step is to learn what’s important to them.


Today’s collision repair industry is more competitive than anyone ever imagined. Shops are struggling to gain more customers in a shrinking market, retain challenging DRP agreements and keep up with ever-changing vehicle technology. In addition to those challenges, the ongoing issue of technician shortage keeps shop owners up at night. What can auto repair companies do to attract, hire and retain young talent? The first step is to learn what’s important to them.

Understanding Millennials

To attract good young techs, shop owners must first try to understand who they are. Generally speaking, these are people born between 1980 and 2004. Millennials are the most health-, safety- and sustainability-conscious generation yet. This group is more supportive of stricter environmental laws, more likely to attribute global warming to human activity and more likely to favor environmentally friendly policies, such as green energy development and tax incentives for hybrid vehicles.

Other identifiers of these young adults, according to various studies, include:

  • They’re more likely to pay more for responsibly made products.
  • Roughly 80 percent want to work for companies that care about the environment.
  • Many are choosing buses and bikes over cars.

Considering these characteristics, what can shops do to help recruit technicians of this generation? A “Safety First” sign hanging on the wall isn’t going to be enough. This generation has to see that a prospective employer not only agrees with workplace safety and environmental issues, but also puts them into practice. Most collision repair CTE schools have very strict safety and environmental requirements that are ingrained in a student’s training.

When these potential employees walk into your shop, what standards do they see? Alternatively, what violations might they notice?

A Culture of Safety

Years ago, the auto repair industry was viewed as having little regard for safety and the environment – a perception that remains to this day with a portion of the general public. Because of that perception, many young adults interested in automotive repair were directed to other career choices, causing the skills gap we have today.

Fortunately, though, the number of students currently entering the trades is on the upswing. Shop owners must concentrate on what it takes to become an employer of choice. Whether recruiting from CTE schools or competing for younger skilled technicians in the job market, shops must keep in mind that employee health and safety and the business’ commitment to sustainability are principal considerations for today’s prospects.

Bigger Penalties

Shops that do not pay attention to employee safety might lose when it comes to recruiting, but there may be a bigger price to pay. Recently, it has been reported that OSHA fines will increase significantly this year.

Since 1990, OSHA has been exempt from increasing its penalties to account for inflation. This changed last November when the new federal budget was signed into law. What does this mean for shops? OSHA could raise proposed fines by a whopping 80 percent.

A large fine could literally put your shop out of business. In addition, consider the other costs related to employee health and safety shortfalls:

  • Worker compensation claims
  • Downtime n Loss of key employees
  • Business interruption
  • Higher insurance rates
  • Higher employee turnover
  • Potential lawsuits

Although OSHA standards are designed to protect workers, businesses can gain a great advantage from establishing and enforcing these health and safety standards. Competing for today’s best technicians goes far beyond salary and benefits. Creating a safety culture is the smartest course of action to attract the best recruits and retain quality employees.

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