Feeling Confident That Your Service Department Complies With Safety And Environmental Laws And Regs
Non-profit group offers tools to evaluate whether your compliance and training are thorough and structured. BY JON MCKENNA
Think of the potentially hazardous situations in which your dealership’s service techs and advisors work routinely – walking beneath cars on the lift and across slippery floors, etc. Ponder the containers of solvents and cartons of petroleum-based products stored in your workplace that must be shielded from careless use and the water supply.
Now, consider the myriad of federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations that govern safety and environmental protection. It’s seemingly impossible just to keep up with them all, let alone to act responsibly if you want to stay in good stead with OSHA but there is no federal standard about how often employees need to undergo lift training.
That everyday reality in automotive service and repair was the motivation for creating the non-profit Clean Auto Alliance in late 2014. Recently, the Alliance posted a free online risk assessment tool and updated performance metrics to help service departments feel compliant and prepared for government oversight.
Could You Pass Agency Audit?
“The idea was to put together a list of activities that, if you do these things, you will pass an EPA or [federal] DOT audit with flying colors,” said Alliance Chairman Eric Schmitz, who also is VP of product and business development at KPA, a Lafayette, Colo.-based provider of dealership management software and services.
The new or revised Alliance tools can be accessed at www.cleanautoalliance.org. Overviews are shown in the exhibits with this article.
Employees of KPA who were informally providing auto service clients with a standard for doing a good job on safety and environmental compliance launched the Alliance. Several dealership businesses – including AutoNation Inc., Chapman Automotive Group, Stead Automotive Group, Crown Auto Group, Voss Auto Network and Gengras Auto Group – signed on with the effort, are helping to fund the non-profit and have representatives on a metrics-setting committee.
Schmitz said the goal is to raise enough money by late 2016 that the Alliance can hire fulltime staff and let him step aside from running it.
The Certification Process
Service departments can log on at the Alliance’s website and answer a series of screening questions (for example, How many gallons of petroleum do you store on-site? Does your operation paint cars? Do you ship any hazardous materials? Do you keep a forklift on the premises?). These screening questions are intended to determine which of the service department’s activities must meet federal, state or local standards and thus are addressed by the Alliance’s standard or more rigorous metrics.
At that point, a service director can begin answering more detailed questions regarding those metrics that apply, and uploading procedures and documentation to prove the safety efforts his department has implemented.
“Every one of these criteria has a regulatory basis,” he said. “We’re not imposing on service departments anything that a regulatory agency hasn’t already said you have to do or that it will reward them for doing it.”
An Alliance team next reviews the service center’s answers and documentation and decides whether to grant an award, or certification. The administrative fee is $595 (free to KPA clients, however). Slightly more than 800 awards have been granted, Schmitz reported.
An initial group of metrics published just after the Alliance was created recently was revised, with some new safety activities and tougher benchmarks.
First, A Quick Screening
As for the online risk assessment, Schmitz said it is a tool to help a service department quickly determine how much work it faces before it can apply for an Alliance award.
It quickly walks a service director through several safety categories and some quick reminders (for example, with regard to the AC 609 standard on handling AC refrigerants, applicants are advised they need to ask a new employee for a copy of his certification and make sure techs use only EPA-approved recover/recycle or recover-only equipment). The risk assessment produces a one-page checklist “that says you have done this, and these are the things you have to work on,” Schmitz explained.
Moving forward, the Alliance plans to next year establish a nationwide working group of 20 to 30 service techs to identify the biggest OSHA-related safety issues they face, he added. Those workplace issues will feed new training courses.
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