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The Federal Government in Your Shop

Most average-sized shops find it difficult to follow the barrage of constantly changing regulations issued by government agencies. But there is hope. Implementation of a Compliance Management Program helps management transform data into useful information, integrate business processes and achieve consistent compliance.


Few industries are as heavily regulated as the automotive services industry. On the national level, occupational health and environmental regulations impact nearly every automotive service shop. OSHA and EPA require documentation on the monitoring of facility safety, emissions and waste that could potentially harm people, air, land or water. Most states in which automotive service sites are located add significant local regulations as well.

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Documenting all of these compliance measures involves an enormous amount of data. Consequently, automotive service facilities and jobbers need to collect data quickly and efficiently and maintain accurate compliance records. Most facilities fail to keep up with their compliance requirements but for a few notable exceptions.

Most shops do their best to provide compliant facilities. Few, if any, would intentionally disregard safety or the environment at the cost of their workers or the public, or even worse, their customers.

Problems arise, however, because most average-sized shops find it difficult to follow the barrage of constantly changing regulations issued by government agencies. Trying to run an automotive service business while simultaneously keeping abreast of OSHA, EPA, DOT, etc., and their endless series of acronyms – SARA, RCRA, HazCom, VOC – sometimes makes it seem like you’re playing regulatory scrabble and losing!


It’s important to understand that there’s a significant difference between environmental (maintaining ecological balance), safety (providing a safe workplace) and compliance (proving that you do).

In today’s aggressive marketplace, successful environmental managers are expected to use fewer available resources to achieve better results. Many managers work in facilities in which large volumes of data are generated, but where there’s no efficient means to turn this data into meaningful information.

Without an effective Compliance Management Program, developing a “big picture” view or locating a specific piece of data can be difficult. In extreme cases, such disorganization can lead to risky behavior. At some shops, for example, managers unable to access permitting data quickly have resorted to guessing about permit conditions instead of looking up accurate information. This action invites an inspector’s review and citation on the basis of faulty records.


As tough as the task may seem, consolidating and organizing all of a shop’s diverse environmental, health and safety information is necessary if owners and operators are to make sound business decisions. A well-designed Compliance Management Program helps management transform data into useful information, integrate business processes and achieve consistent compliance.

To develop an effective Compliance Management Program, shop managers must decide on an administrative solution, integrate existing business processes, define regulatory requirements, and weigh the pros and cons of in-house versus outsourced risks and liability.

Update on Shop Regulations
The following list is an update on major shop regulations; local laws also apply and are sometimes even stricter.


– Clean Water Act: The EPA established the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, which includes the storm water runoff requirements covering the discharge of pollutants into waterways.

– Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA): This EPA law regulates many shop functions, including underground storage tank management and the storage and disposal of hazardous wastes.

– Written Plans: Extensive regulations cover a multitude of on-site business written documents, plans and drawings describing shop procedures and policies. The most common written requirements include:

Code of Safe Practices

Worker Safety Program

Employer Poster Display

Injury and Illness Prevention Program

Hazardous Materials Management Plan

Process Safety Management Plan

Spill Prevention and Control Countermeasures (SPCC) Plan

Stormwater Discharge Pollution Prevention and Monitoring Plan

Respiratory Protection Program

Underground Storage Tank Monitoring Plan

Lock/Tag-Out Program

Emergency Telephone Contact Poster

Site Evacuation Wall Map

Risk Management Plan

Emergency Action Plan

– Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): Shops must make reasonable accommodations to make their facilities accessible to the handicapped.

– Truth in Mileage Act of 1986: Imposes record-keeping, creating a “paper-trail” of odometer readings.

– Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): Requires the shop/creditor to notify applicants in a timely fashion of actions taken on and reasons for denying an application, and to keep records of credit applications.


– Fair Credit Reporting Act: Shops are restricted in their use of credit reports for customers, job applicants and employees.

– Clean Air Act and Amendments: Extensive regulations cover a multitude of air pollution laws. The most common requirements include:

Paints and Solvents: Federal and state laws require shops to use only compliant paint and solvents. Imposes record keeping to maintain a paper trail of Volatile Organic Compound values and limits.

Hazardous Air Pollutants: EPA requires controlled air carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins to be stored, used and disposed of according to certain record keeping deadline procedures.

Spraybooths: Shops are required to permit, certify and test coatings enclosures as controlled by environmental and employee safety laws.

Vehicle Equipment: Shops are prohibited from tampering with, replacing or removing emissions-control equipment such as catalytic converters.

CFC Recycling Regulations: Require shop air-conditioning techs to obtain certification and to use certified recycling and recovery equipment to capture spent refrigerant.

– Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), AKA Superfund: Most shops have been removed from Superfund liability as de micromis (small volume) waste contributors.


– Drive for Teen Employment Act: Conditions under which young employees can drive on the job.

– Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986: Shops are barred from discharging waste liquids such as used oil, antifreeze and brake fluids into septic system drain fields, dry wells, cesspools or pits.

– National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Reauthorization Act of 1992: Vehicles and parts held in shop inventory that are part of a recall must be corrected before being sold.

– NHTSA Safety Belt/Air Bag Regulations: Shops may install switches for customers with NHTSA authorization letters and must inform NHTSA afterward.

– OSHA Workplace Health and Safety Standards: Extensive regulations cover a multitude of workplace issues and practices, dictating everything from hydraulic lift operation to the number of toilets required for staff. General regulatory awareness of the requirements include the following categories:


Lock/Tag Out Procedures

Respiratory Protection

Emergency Response

Personal Protective Equipment Usage

Portable Fire Extinguisher Usage

Fork Lift Operation

Ergonomics Standard

– Fire Code Standards: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and OSHA standards require shops to control flammable and combustible substances.

– OSHA Hazard Communication “HazCom” Standard (Right to Know laws): Requires shops to inform employees about the chemical hazards they’re exposed to in the workplace, to keep Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on-site and to train employees in the proper handling of hazardous materials.

– OSHA Asbestos Standards: Shops must use certain procedures during all brake and clutch inspections and repairs to comply with workplace exposure laws.

– Department of Transportation (DOT) Hazardous Materials Handling: This rule requires certain shop employees who load, unload and package hazardous products such as batteries, air bags and brake fluid to undergo training in safe handling practices.


– Employment Laws: Extensive regulations cover a multitude of shop workplace requirements. General employer requirements include the following issues:

Mental Health Parity Act of 1996

OSHA Injury and Illness Protection Program

Newborns and Mothers Health Protection Act of 1996

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996

Federal Child Support Enforcement Regulations

Drivers Privacy Protection Act

Federal Wage Hour and Child Labor Law

Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA)

Employee Drug Testing

Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988

Section 89 of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 “Employee Benefits” A

Writer Steven E. Schillinger is president of Phone-In Record Keeping, Inc., d.b.a. PIRK, Inc. To contact Schillinger, call (888) 374-7475.

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