Auto Laundry News - August 2013

Clean and Safe — Attractive to Customers and Employees

By Sharie Sipowicz


Here are some tips developed by Universal Underwriters to help you avoid trouble with OSHA and keep your operation environmentally safe:

  • Ask for extra time to contact a safety and environmental company, but do not try to delay the inspection.
  • Fix violations immediately.
  • The responsibility for proper work practices and OSHA-safe equipment is yours and yours alone. Do not duck this.
  • Have written safety and health procedures, and evidence of employee training programs in OSHA-required areas such as hazard warnings.
  • Show a procedure for employees to pursue during OSHA inspections.
  • Consult an attorney when contesting a penalty or violation.

Customer satisfaction goes hand in hand these days with being a detail business whose workplace is healthy and safe for both employees and the community at large.

Finding a detail business that operates six or seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, and offers shuttle and pick-up-and-delivery service to accommodate as many customers as possible is no longer unique. That’s customer service.

Most detailers would not have considered being open seven days a week, 12 hours a day when they started. To do so today, you have to have knowledge and top equipment. In addition, a professional shop needs to be healthy and safe, complying with all government environmental and safety regulations.

Detail operations that focus on these things will see business increase dramatically, which helps their customer service ratings.

It is not necessary to extend operating days and hours as long as the business has good customer satisfaction ratings. But, it has become a rule of thumb that detail operators who keep on the right side of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stand a better chance of avoiding a tag as a “polluter” or operating a business that could be harmful to work in or walk through. One key issue a good employee looks at when taking a job with a company is “how safe is the workplace.”

Detail businesses are fair game for OSHA or EPA inspections and compliance enforcement. In some states detailers can be and have been fined for all kinds of violations such as improper effluent discharge, lack of wastewater containment, numerous safety issues, improper payment to employees, and no workers’ compensation insurance.

Abuses like this can be prevented. These abuses also cause detail businesses unnecessary ill will for polluting the environment or violating labor laws, if they are permitted to go on.

The “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” axiom applies to control of hazardous waste and chemical use — both prime targets of the EPA and OSHA.

Detail operations that contain wastewater are providing their business and the industry the image of being “green.” Further, those who educate employees about chemical hazards will find this brings goodwill in many ways.
It is reported that the EPA can require any business that produces 265 gallons of hazardous waste a month not only to file monthly reports on the quantity, but also to advise the agency every two years of steps being taken to reduce the disposal problem.


Detailers may not be aware that most OSHA and EPA offices offer consultation visits, which are separate from enforcement procedures. In OSHA’s case, use of a consultant may entitle the business to a one-year reprieve from a routine inspection if a serious problem has been corrected.

Detailers who stay on top of regulatory issues also avoid exposure from damage suits by former employees alleging health problems because of improper use and handling of chemicals.

Customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction derive from the conditions in the shop and every owner should keep both parties in mind.

The payback for being a good detailer citizen is worth its weight in gold.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at

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