Last August, a Pennsylvania man was performing mechanical work underneath a vehicle when one of the jack stands collapsed. He was crushed by the car and pronounced dead at the scene.
A couple of months later, two Indianapolis men suffered serious burns when the car they were working on caught fire, causing the gas tank to explode.
These are not isolated incidents; they’re just two of the hundreds of serious accidents and injuries that happen in body shops across the country every year. When thinking about all of the potential hazards in a shop environment, it’s a wonder why employees aren’t better trained on safety issues they face every day.
Let’s keep it real, though – safety isn’t something that many people consciously think about on a daily basis. The rush of the shop environment, the persistent “I need it yesterday” customers, and the attitudes of shop employees who just don’t consider how safety issues apply to them all contribute to an environment that can put your business at risk. Often, it’s the dreaded mandates and regulations or threat of an OSHA visit that force employers and employees to act. In worst-case scenarios, it’s an injury or fatality that prompts everyone to place a higher priority on safety.
This month, OSHA kicked off stricter reporting rules and requirements for employees under OSHA jurisdiction, including those in the collision repair industry. Effective Jan. 1, 2015, OSHA has expanded its list of severe work-related injuries that all covered employees must report. Now, you must report all work-related fatalities within eight hours. And, you must report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye within 24 hours. Previously, employers were only expected to report after a fatality or when three or more workers were hospitalized in the same incident.
You might wonder, is OSHA adding something else to my already-full plate? Actually, this isn’t a new mandate. For many years, OSHA has been requiring high-hazard businesses – including those in the automotive industry – to keep records of serious illnesses and injuries using the 300 log. The log is used to record every work-related injury or illness that involves loss of consciousness, restricted work activity or job transfer, days away from work or medical treatment beyond first aid. This also includes significant work-related injuries and illnesses that are diagnosed by a physician or licensed healthcare professional.
The reasons for updating the Recordkeeping Rule make a lot of sense. According to OSHA, the new reporting requirements will serve dual purposes. As an employer, reporting these work-related injuries will enable you and your workers to help prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards. In other words, if the same injuries keep popping up on the 300 log, you will find detailed information to better enable you to address those hazards.
Having improved access to injury information will help focus resources and compliance assistance where it’s needed most, OSHA says. Potentially, the organization can intervene sooner, engaging employers not just through inspections but also through outreach to fix hazards before they cause injury or death.
If you have 10 or fewer employees, no matter what the industry, you’re still exempt from the requirement to routinely keep records. But keeping track of injury and illness records – even when not required – can help your business.
Not Always Common Sense
Safety is not always common sense; often, it’s identifying and understanding those safety hazards that can lead to better practices in the shop. Through the process of logging injuries and illnesses, you can establish worker protections designed to reduce and eliminate those hazards. It could be a matter of evaluating and changing your employees’ personal protective equipment, modifying your shop layout or training employees on using better habits.
In future columns, we’ll address safety and health, the environment and risk management – topics you need to focus on to help keep your shop up and running and employees free from injury.