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Protecting Shop Employees and Customers from Coronavirus

As the challenge of the coronavirus expands and local, state and federal authorities implement new rules for business operations and personal interactions, the collision repair industry and the many people who work in it are faced with new considerations for how they perform their job.

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“As travel options such as flying and public transportation are becoming limited, people are even more dependent on their vehicles for work and to take care of their daily lives,” said Farzam Afshar, CEO of VeriFacts Automotive. “When getting your vehicle repaired is critical, we want to help our customers – and the consumer – be as safe as possible.”

VeriFacts Automotive, which works with thousands of collision repair facilities and industry suppliers across North America and regularly coaches shop owners on their shop environmental health standards, is offering shop owners guidance on helping to protect the health of their locations and their customer interactions. Earlier this month, VeriFacts Automotive cancelled its April 20-21 VeriFacts Automotive Symposium in Toronto over concerns about travel limitations and coronavirus exposure.

The VeriFacts Automotive recommendations include:

Clean Your Shop Thoroughly and Routinely

  • Sanitize the entire office and shop area several times throughout the day and maintain a safe environment for everyone. Don’t forget the clipboards and pens that customers use to sign authorizations.
  • Follow the CDC guidelines on surface cleaning, particularly around computer terminals, equipment, counters, entryways and bathroom facilities.
  • Consider suspending your lobby coffee and beverage service to reduce waste.
  • Provide customers disinfecting wipes and sanitizing gel in the waiting areas – and do the same for all employees.

Sanitize Each Vehicle As They Arrive And Are Returned

  • According to consumer automotive expert Lauren Fix of the Car Coach Report, the average vehicle has approximately 283 different types of bacteria in every square inch. The average steering wheel has four times more bacteria on it than a typical public toilet seat, and the worst spots in cars are the front seat cup holder (1,179 germs per square inch), dashboard air vent (1,082 germs per square inch), driver side floor mats (1,197 germs per square inch) and the door handle (375 germs per square inch).
  • Use color-safe disinfectant wipes to clean the interior of the car, making sure that the dashboard, gearstick, cup holder and steering wheel get special attention. Don’t overlook all the knobs and armrests.
  • When vehicles are completed, repeat the interior sanitizing process again before delivery to the customer.

Provide Convenient Drop-Off and Pickup Services for Customers

  • Offer a secure drop-off service where customers can complete their information online and drop their keys in a signed sealed envelope.
  • For customers who want to wait for an estimate, encourage them to wait in their vehicle if possible while the estimate is being conducted. Or, hand them disposable gloves as they enter your shop and they can discard the gloves as they leave.
  • For vehicle returns, provide customers an opportunity to conduct a virtual review of their repair via Skype, FaceTime or other sharing services.

Manage Your Team Members’ Health and Safety

  • Encourage your team members to follow all current OSHA guidelines regarding gloves, eye protection and respirators – and educate them about the importance of limiting personal contact in workspaces.
  • Make sure all shared equipment and spaces like paint rooms and parts areas are sanitized throughout the day and all employees in these areas are wearing proper protection.
  • Consider having a medical/public health professional conduct a risk assessment for your staff to determine if anyone should seek further care or if others are at risk.
  • Evaluate team scheduling to allow non-essential employees to work from home, if possible.

Limit Interaction with Business Partners, Vendors and Delivery Drivers

  • Limit visitors by encouraging them to schedule an appointment at off-peak times, provide training and coaching through online/virtual methods and make deliveries at a secure, sanitized delivery point.
  • Remind visitors and employees to limit personal interaction – offer a fist bump or elbow bump instead.
  • Practice social distancing and maintain six to eight feet from another person.

“Most collision repair facilities have numerous visitors throughout the day, such as VeriFacts Automotive coaches conducting audits, vendors providing training or sales calls, or even delivery and tow drivers with supplies or vehicles for repair,” said Afshar. “We want to protect the safety and health of our team members as well as our customers. We have issued new protocols to protect our coaches and customers during each facility visit, and ensure that all VeriFacts Automotive personnel are following all coronavirus best practices as outlined by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and other public health bodies.”

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Afshar added that VeriFacts Automotive is essentially a virtual company and its personnel work remotely from their home offices across the U.S. and Canada. The proprietary iPad-based tools used by VeriFacts Automotive coaches to provide services to customers are all managed and secured centrally but deployed remotely, so the VeriFacts Automotive team all has the tools in-hand to respond to most customers’ needs.

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