With Safety, The Smallest Miss Can Bring Big Problems

With Safety, The Smallest Miss Can Bring Big Problems

Your most important asset isn’t your building, contents or customers but employees. Adopt a preventive measure mindset.

Courtesy of ShopOwner by Vic Tarasik

It’s the happiest place on earth…no, not the place with the Mouse. I’m talking about your shop when you achieve the business of your dreams. Ater years in the industry you have finally made it, so picture the ultimate result. Granite counters, a well-appointed customer lounge, a/c with heat in the shop and ceramic-tiled bays filled with in-ground lifts are just the tip of the iceberg of your dream shop. 

You may be in it now or will attain it at some point in the near future. It’s a busy shop with happy customers and employees that sing the praises of working at a shop that is so advanced and well maintained. Production is high and the days fly by because you are having the time of your life.

Then “it” happens…

The “it” could be an employee wasn’t wearing his safety glasses and a battery shorted a cell, spraying acid in his eyes. A well-meaning apprentice nearby knew that he is supposed to use baking soda to neutralize acid around the battery terminals. He grabs a box and tosses some baking soda in the employee’s eyes. Any help is good, right? 

He might think he’s helping, but according to the Material Safety Data Sheet for dealing with battery fluid acid.

This is directly from the MSDS: 


Battery Fluid Acid First-Aid Measures For Eye Contact:

An eyewash/emergency shower should be provided wherever battery acid exposure is possible. Flush eyes with large amounts of water for at least 15 minutes. Remove contaminated clothing and seek immediate medical attention if eyes have been exposed directly to acid.

Not following the required Material Safety Data Sheet treatment protocol could leave your employee with permanent eye damage and open your shop up to legal action. Litigation is costly and has the potential to do irreparable harm to any business. 

A more likely “it” would be a visit from OSHA

Because OSHA considers the transportation industry to be one the top three most dangerous occupations, there stands a chance that one day you’ll see a compliance officer show up at your shop. Failure to prepare a safe workplace can result in some pretty stiff fines. 

If you happen to not be in the shop when the compliance officer comes by, it’s hard to say what he’ll see and who in the shop he’ll talk with. Consider that the compliance officer is allowed in your shop by your staff because of who he is. He spots your newest tech and heads over to ask the tech to show him the hazardous communication tools in your shop. A look of bewilderment comes across his face because he was just hired but hadn’t been walked through the location of the MSDS, eyewash and first-aid stations. 

At this point, you are in hot water and things will only get hotter as he looks around your shop. I have been in many shops over the years that I’ve been coaching and have seen many (though unintended) safety violations. A couple of common examples include grinders with missing eye shields, incorrect spacing between the grinding wheel and the tool rest and PVC pipe used for air lines. I was in one shop that not only had no eye shields on a grinder with no tool rests, it was wired using an extension cord with 12-volt splices and exposed wires! 

Financial Impact

According to OSHA’s most recent fine scale, the cost of each safety violation in your shop can result in a fine of $13,494. Safety violations are one of the easiest things to correct and are completely in our control. This makes it all the more frustrating when you receive a citation. The fines can add up quickly, draining financial and emotional reserves! 

Where to get your MSD sheets

Every chemical in your shop requires a corresponding MSDS, and you know we use all sorts of chemicals each and every day. Your parts supplier will provide an MSDS but only when you ask for it. 

Recently, I was with a NAPA Sales rep on a trip in Anchorage, AK. At one of the shops we visited, the subject of chemicals and MSDS came up.

The shop owner told me how impressed he was that his rep had given him a flash drive complete with every chemical that they sell. So instead of tracking down a new MSDS for each chemical they used, he could print a sheet and populate his yellow folder. Talk about a rep and company exceeding their customers’ expectations!

If your supplier isn’t that proactive, request a hard copy or electronic version of the corresponding MSDS for each chemical they sell to you, they’ll be happy to provide it.

Safety isn’t sexy but…

Safety may not be the coolest topic to deal with in the shop – in fact, I’ll bet it ranks right up there with getting a root canal. But, when you consider that your most important asset isn’t your building, contents or customers –  it’s your employees –  you’ll be more apt to adopt a preventive measure mindset. 

Remember that place with the Mouse? Disney has a set of core values as a part of who it is as a company. Of its four standards, Disney lists safety first, with three actions steps. 


I practice safe behaviors in everything I do

I take action to always put safety first

I speak up to ensure the safety of others

While it sounds like the scenarios I mentioned might be uncommon, they actually happen every day. Safety in the shop should be the highest priority. 

Your Action Plan

Appoint a safety team lead. One of your employees is likely more safety conscious than the rest. He or she would be honored to put that leadership trait to use.

Verify that you have an MSDS station complete with binder and a full set of MSD sheets for each chemical you have in your shop.

Have monthly safety meetings, complete with a sign in sheet and topics you are covering in each meeting. File this away in case you ever need to provide proof to an insurance company or OSHA.

Set a good example – as you lead, they follow. Wear ear/eye protection when needed and model every safety protocol you want duplicated.

Here’s to a very safe and extremely healthy year.

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