Posts Tagged ‘workplace injuries’

Are You Encouraging Injured Employees to Get Back to Work? (Safety Culture Tip #4)

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Injured man with broken leg looking into camera and smilingInjuries happen. Auto dealers who have successfully implemented a positive safety culture have created effective procedures for helping an injured employee get back to work. A lot can be done to communicate to the injured colleague that they are valued and wanted back.

Here are a couple of scenarios where it’s important to encourage employees to return to work:

  1. Injured employees who haven’t yet reached maximum improvement but are able to return to work in a transitional assignment.
  2. An injured employee who can’t fully recover from an injury, but can return to a different job.

So how do you make sure people in these situations know they can – and should – come back? Have a written return-to-work policy and give it to your employee. Set the expectation that they are wanted back, if at all possible.

This is a win/win approach to an injury: Employees feel appreciated and are more productive. Employers gain from lower workers’ comp premiums and lower staff turnover. By the way, this topic can get complicated. If you have questions, contact your HR consultant, or consider signing up for our Human Resources Management consulting service. (Just email Kathryn Carlson –

Resources related to this blog post:
Webinar: “How to Develop a Positive Safety Culture” by Nick Hardesty
Blog posts on safety culture: Defining a Safety Culture, Tip #1 –Senior Management, Tip #2 –Safety Coordinators, Tip #3 – Accident Follow-up

Are These 4 Dangerous Chemicals Lurking in Your Dealership?

Monday, August 20th, 2012

chemicals of concern for auto dealer safetyEfficiency is critical in a service bay. Mechanics and body shop specialists have to clean breaks, paint fenders and complete many other similar tasks as quickly and thoroughly as possible. This makes it tempting for them to resort to chemicals that product results – but post an unacceptable health risk.

Eric Schmitz, our VP of Environment and Safety Products, has been researching the proposed new legislation on “chemicals of concern,” studying what it will mean for auto dealers. He put together a list of four dangerous chemicals often used in vehicles, or products related to auto repairs.

These chemicals seriously increase your liability as an employer. Here’s Eric’s list, with examples of where they may show up:

  1. Isocyanates – undercoating products
  2. Hydrofluoric Acid – detailing products
  3. Methylene Chloride – stripping products
  4. N-Hexane – solvents

You can’t get rid of Isocyanates completely, but KPA recommends protective gear. The other three should be removed from your dealership. To learn more, read Eric’s instructions on “Chemicals of Concern.” Or call Eric at (303) 228-8766.

7 Safety Pitfalls in Your Parts Department

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

How would your Parts Department fare today, if you received a safety inspection? Our engineers have found 7 common areas where things go wrong. Some are pretty easy to spot, but some are less obvious. Let’s take a look at a few:

1) Unsafe storage on shelves 
If you have sprinkler heads in your Parts Department, make sure items stored on the top shelf don’t obstruct the sprinkler heads. If you don’t have sprinkler heads, keep two feet of clearance between the roof and the top shelf of your storage.

2) Electrical panels
Make sure you have at least three feet of clearance around all sides of your electrical panels. You may want to use caution tape, or something similar, to mark the area that must stay clear.

3) Batteries
Do you have used or warranty batteries stored in the Parts Department? Most dealers do. Make sure that they are in containers that eliminate battery acid spill on the ground. It’s also best to have baking soda on hand to make sure that any acid spills can be quickly neutralized.

4) DOT hazardous materials training
DOT training is required and due every three years. This applies to your Parts Department if they ship any kind of hazardous materials like seat belt pretensioners or air bag modules.

Want to guess what the other 3 pitfalls are?… There are also numerous hazards related to light bulbs, upstairs storage areas and forklifts.

To get more information on all these safety pitfalls, watch KPA’s 3 minute video.

How Do You Know if Your Safety Program Is Working?

Friday, October 7th, 2011

How do you measure success? You look for things that you can track and measure. These key indicators are pretty standard, and should be documented and communicated as part of your safety program:

•Workplace inspections (KPA audits and your account are excellent resources)
•Exposure assessments
•Injury, illness, and incident tracking
•Employee input
•OSHA assessment

A note about injury rates: They’re a little misleading because they are lagging indicators- they do a great job at showing performance under past circumstances and are not reliable for predicting future performance (but you still have to track injury rates for reporting to regulatory agencies- so don’t ignore them).


Get a clear picture of where your program is headed: Culture predicts outcomes.

•Track work practices and sustained behaviors that increase or reduce hazards
•The level that culture supports safety objectives and activities
For example, how fast are issues addressed in your myKPAonline account?
•Workers’ interest in safety activities and behaviors
•The value placed on workplace safety by senior leadership compared to other objectives

Yes, OSHA Can Cite Your Dealership for Workplace Violence.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

This month, OSHA issued a new instruction for enforcement procedures for investigating or inspecting workplace violence incidents. It is effective in all Federal OSHA jurisdictions (State agencies are strongly encouraged to adopt this instruction), and tells field offices how to conduct inspections in response to workplace violence. While background studies for this enforcement have been ongoing since 1996, this is the first time that OSHA has issued an instruction that clarifies and explains the Agency’s policies and procedures around holding employers accountable for preventing workplace violence.

Here are the basics of what you need to know about the instruction:

  • This directive does not require an OSHA response to every complaint or fatality of workplace violence or require that citations or notices be issued for every incident inspected or investigated, but any of these events initiate an inspection if workplace violence is suspected as a hazard.
  • It provides general enforcement guidance to be applied in determining whether to make an initial response and/or
    cite an employer.
  • An instance of workplace violence is presumed to be work related if it results from an event occurring in the workplace.
  • Employers may be found in violation of the general duty clause if they fail to reduce or eliminate serious recognized hazards.
  • Classifies four types of workplace violence
  • Identifies high-risk factors for workplaces, including contact with the  general public, handling money and valuables, delivering passengers goods or services, or located in areas with high crime rates.


Changes in inspections

  • Inspectors should gather evidence to demonstrate whether an employer recognized, either individually or through its industry, the existence of a potential workplace violence hazard affecting his or her employees.
  • Investigations should focus on the availability to employers of feasible means of preventing or minimizing workplace violence hazards.


What it means for employers

  • In workplaces where a potential for violence against employees has been identified, the employer should develop and implement a workplace violence prevention program.
  • Keep documentation of “feasible means of abatement” on hand, including any precautions or protective measures taken by the employer to prevent or minimize workplace violence. Include a security plan, training plan, presence of a preventive plan, or other safety documents.
  • Maintain five years of injury illness records on site, including workers’ compensation records, insurance records, police reports, security reports, first-aid logs, employee emergency action plans, OSHA 300 logs, union complaints (if applicable),  past complaints or grievances noting a particular hazard, meeting minutes where workplace violence issues are discussed, and accident or near miss logs.


Further reading:

Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Workplace Violence (PDF download)

OSHA’s new Workplace Violence page

OSHA Safety and Health Topics Workplace Violence

New Safe Driving Online Training Course

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

You’ve asked for it and now it’s here: The Safe Driving online training course. If you or your employees test drive vehicles that have been in for service, shuttle customers to or from your location, take customers on test drives as part of the sales process, or transport vehicles or parts from one location to another, this course will help increase the number of safety precautions you take every time you get behind the wheel.

Take the course for a spin today! Go to > Dashboard > My Online Training > and then scroll down until you see Safe Driving. When you’re finished, let us know what you think by taking the survey at the end of the course.

Also, keep an eye out for a new course on respiratory protection set to launch this fall. Have a course you’d like to see KPA develop? Let us know!

The Number One Least Asked Question at Your Dealership…Why?

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

In business, the “why?” tends to get lost in the shuffle. We understand the how and when of our jobs, but too often the why remains unanswered, or it is “You have to do it because that is what everyone else is doing.”

Which leads to the question, “Why is safety culture important?”

This is an important question, because to date, most companies have made a business out of ignoring everything but the bottom line. We can’t have a meaningful discussion about caring for worker safety if we don’t know why doing so is a business advantage. This new report at EHSToday, helps answer why. It shows links between safety culture and improved productivity, quality and competitive position.

This concept moves us from measuring safety as specific outputs (such as low total recordable case rates), to understanding how to build an organizational system that effectively analyzes and controls the hazards associated with the organization’s operations.

This report reminds me of articles about quality control systems when Japanese auto companies shifted away from measuring specific outputs (such as low deviation rates), to concentrating more on understanding, controlling and improving processes used to accomplish work at a higher quality. This of course, resulted in the entire manufacturing industry changing its approach to quality control.

And it all starts with looking at business processes, and answering a simple question… Why?

When to Align Company Safety Policy and Company Culture

Friday, June 24th, 2011

In business, culture predicts outcome. For example, Adoflson & Peterson Construction, won the EHS 2010 America’s Safest Company Award. The company went on to  attain 4.4 million consecutive hours worked without a lost time accident. Another safe company finalist, Armstrong World Industries, Inc is ranked as a top 5 building products company, with the highest free cash flow per share rating. There are many more examples like these that demonstrate the positive relationship between strong safety cultures and successful business outcomes.

Best Practices
Company safety is a direct reflection of the decisions leaders make, the things they say, the systems they implement and oversee, and the value they place on safety with respect to other objectives. It is a combination of company policy- the official rules, and company culture- what employees actually do and say.

There should always be alignment between safety policies and company culture. If company culture doesn’t support all safety policies, then there is a problem.

Addressing the problem looks at the policy first. Ask two questions:

  • Is it in compliance with the latest regulatory updates?
  • Is it specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely (SMART)?

If the answer to either is no, then the policy needs to change.

If the problem is not the policy, then the culture needs to change. Safety isn’t something that can be delegated; it has to be part of workplace vales for everyone, from the CEO to each worker. If your company culture is not in alignment with company policy, it is time to change the culture.

How to Change Company Culture

Now is a perfect time for your company to adopt a safety culture. The process is different, depending on if your company is in a stage of growth or a stage of turbulence. If you have been with your company for more than a few years, you know about this. The chart below is from the classic resource, Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow. It is a model of how organizations develop. Basically, it shows that long stages of growth, or evolution, are interrupted by periods of turbulence, or revolution as a company adjusts to market pressures and the company’s growing size.

Approach for Stages of Evolution

During stages of evolution, business goes smoothly and market environments are healthy; profits come relatively easy. Generally, adopting a safety culture would look like a policy shift. To employees, the decision would look like a proactive investment in their well-being.  Characteristics of a change during evolution:

  • Usually starts with senior management
  • Employees see it as a policy shift
  • Focuses on goals like trust, innovation, or fairness

Approach for Stages of Revolution

Stages of revolution could also be called crisis situations. They can be a reaction to tougher markets- like a recession, or from internal pressures- like an unexpected spike in employee turnover. During a crisis, company policies and practices come under review, and companies that are unable to abandon past practices and adopt organizational changes are likely to either fold or level off in growth. The critical task for management is to find a new set of organizational practices that will become the basis for the next stage of growth.

Characteristics of a change during evolution:

  • Usually involves more levels of management
  • Employees see it as a break from current policy
  • Focuses on goals like team-building, management credibility, or precautionary steps

Adopting best safety practices at any time takes planning and tenacity. But it is worth it. Keep in mind the famous line from Tom Northup, a thought leader and author in organizational management, “All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting. If we want different results, we must change the way we do things.”


Expensing prescription safety glasses: how high is the bar on safety at your dealership?

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

“If I have to choose, I’d rather see.” An auto technician explains why he wears prescription glasses instead of safety glasses while working on cars. “And the OTG glasses/ glasses combo doesn’t fit right. It’s too heavy and gets in my way.”  Considering that 126 million Americans wear eyeglasses, this is a common workplace dilemma that service managers deal with every day.

Recently, I was on a site inspection for a client in California. The service center was spotless; the only noticeable safety concern was that one of the six technicians was wearing prescription glasses instead of safety glasses. Honestly, at this point, I was impressed. Then, during the safety meeting, management raised the bar even further. The GM gave the go-ahead to have a pair of prescription safety glasses expensed to the company for the technician. “It is a lot cheaper to buy the glasses than to deal with an employee injury,” the GM explained.

It’s true. With an understanding that safety is a long-term investment, this is a very good decision on many levels. It will improve the employee’s value contribution and loyalty. It sends a clear message that safety is important, and systemic decisions like this one have already paid off for the company- they are growing while their competition is struggling.

With an eye on corporate responsibility, many companies promise that they take care of employees. Not surprisingly, there are different points of view on what that promise looks like. For this client, it looks like a genuine concern for employee well-being. What does the promise look like at your company?

Parts Grinder OSHA violation fixed at KPA dealer safety inspection

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

There’s a reason that Parts Grinders are one of the top OSHA violations. Just last week I visited a dealer who has been a KPA client for more than 14 years and an excellent record when it comes to environmental and safety. Yet, during our quarterly inspection we found that their parts grinder was not mounted properly: see picture. This violates Federal Regulation 29 CFR 1910.212(b) “Anchoring fixed machinery. Machines designed for a fixed location shall be securely anchored to prevent walking or moving.”

Fixed Ops managers should be on high OHSA alert for these situations.

About a month ago we wrote a blog about how your parts grinder can pass an OSHA inspection. The event that triggered this blog was that OSHA issued five citations totaling $75,000 to Pep Boys for a “repeat violation” and at the center of the fines was a parts grinder. Parts grinders, or abrasive wheel machinery, were the third most cited auto dealership violations in 2010. Parts grinders are citable violations because by nature, they involve contact between employees and equipment.

Are your parts grinders safe?