Workplace Dangers in DETAIL: The Wash Bay Connection

March 25th, 2011 by

On a busy day, the floor can be covered in soaps, “engine juices,” oils, chemicals,  and solvents. Flammable liquids in 55 gallon drums line the wall, with a high risk of explosion from any ignition source.

This is where the safety culture at your dealership gets the road test. In the detail department, where staff is usually subcontracted, and not normally a part of the safety committee. How do you measure the risk of workplace hazards and compliance liabilities in this work area?


Here’s the short-list of what to consider in your wash bay risk assessment:

  • Hazard Communication:  All affected employees should be aware and regularly reminded of:
  • Primary Containers:  all primary containers must have specific hazard labeling requirements.  Primary container labels should consist of: manufacturer’s name and address/phone number, product name, and a specific hazard warning.  Contact the manufacturer immediately if this information is unavailable.
  • Secondary Containers: all secondary containers (spray bottles, etc) must be labeled to their contents and have appropriate hazard warnings.
  • Organization: all materials and chemicals should be kept organized.

  • Cleanliness: The wash bay should be regularly sprayed-down, swept, and cleaned.
  • Everything should be stored and sealed when not in active use.
  • Wash Bay attendants should wear protective gloves, and wash hands frequently.
  • Proper footwear: work boots are ideal. On a busy day, the floor is too slippery for sneakers or street shoes.
  • No smoking in the wash bay. No exceptions.

Subcontractors and Liability
Even if the work is subcontracted, the dealership could be liable for accidents or injuries. OSHA fines and financial liability both play a part. You should make sure that your subcontractor has adequate insurance. Get a certificate of insurance from your subcontractor, check that the coverage is adequate  and keep it on file at your dealership. As the primary employer at the dealership, OSHA may also find you responsible for your subcontractor’s omissions. Check up on all of your subcontractors to make sure they’re not cutting corners.

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2 Responses to “Workplace Dangers in DETAIL: The Wash Bay Connection”

  1. Michele West says:

    I am in an on going discussion with my boss.I told him according to all the safety films and instruction on running the fuel center,there is to be no smoking on the fuel pad. He will not back me up on this issue with the customers and I am afraid someone is going to get hurt.Would you mind e-mailing me an answer back on this issue. Thank YOU

  2. This link explains the international fire code regulations on this topic:

    Or, here is the Wikipedia answer to your question:

    It is prohibited to use open flames and, in some places, mobile phones[28] on the forecourt of a filling station because of the risk of igniting gasoline vapor. In the U.S. the fire marshal is responsible for regulations at the gas pump. Most localities ban smoking, open flames and running engines. Since the increased occurrence of static-related fires many stations have warnings about leaving the refueling point.
    Cars can build up static charge by driving on dry road surfaces. However many tire compounds contain enough carbon black to provide an electrical ground which prevents charge build-up. Newer “high mileage” tires use more silica and can increase the buildup of static. A driver who does not discharge static by contacting a conductive part of the car will carry it to the insulated handle of the nozzle and the static potential will eventually be discharged when this purposely-grounded arrangement is put into contact with the metallic filler neck of the vehicle.[29] Ordinarily, vapor concentrations in the area of this filling operation are below the lower explosive limit (LEL) of the product being dispensed, so the static discharge causes no problem. The problem with ungrounded gas cans results from a combination of vehicular static charge, the potential between the container and the vehicle, and the loose fit between the grounded nozzle and the gas can. This last condition causes a rich vapor concentration in theullage (the unfilled volume) of the gas can, and a discharge from the can to the grounded hanging hardware (the nozzle, hose, swivels and break-a-ways) can thus occur at a most inopportune point. The Petroleum Equipment Institute has recorded incidents of static-related ignition at refueling sites since early 2000. [3]
    Although urban legends persist that a mobile phone can cause sparks, this has not been duplicated under any controlled condition. Nevertheless, mobile phone manufacturers and gas stations ask users to switch off their phones. One suggested origin of this myth is said to have been started by gas station companies because the cell phone signal would interfere with the fuel counter on some older model fuel pumps causing it to give a lower reading. In the MythBusters episode “Cell Phone Destruction”, investigators concluded that explosions attributed to cell phones could be caused by static discharges from clothing instead and also observed that such incidents seem to involve women more often than men.
    The U.S. National Fire Protection Association does most of the research and code writing to address the potential for explosions of gasoline vapor. The customer fueling area, up to 18 inches (46 cm) above the surface, normally does not have explosive concentrations of vapors, but may from time to time. Above this height, where most fuel filler necks are located, there is no expectation of an explosive concentration of gasoline vapor in normal operating conditions. Electrical equipment in the fueling area may be specially certified for use around gasoline vapors.

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