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Risk Management and Cleaning Car Lots - Carpel Tunnel Or OSHA Compliance - Case Study

Written By Iniesta Estable on Thursday, January 31, 2013 | 6:03 PM

Risk management is important, even in a small business. Before retirement I ran a franchising company, and we franchised mobile car wash units. One of our major market segments were new car lots, and large used-car lots like CarMax. We also washed for many car rental agencies. Obviously, we would wash while these cars were lined up in rows, and sometimes you could look down the end of the row, and get yourself psyched out due to the number of cars you had to wash.

Indeed, we cleaned for companies like Daewoo, Hyundai, BMW as the cars were parked at the port after they came off of the ships and we also clean for auto auctions; in some cases there were in excess of 600 to 5000 cars to clean. And even with a crew of five, 10, or even 20 people it was absolutely overwhelming.

There were definite issues of fatigue, as the workflow progressed. And OSHA standards dictated that the pressure washing guns had to have a trigger release, so that if you dropped the high pressure washing gun, it could not whip around and hit you in the head, or allow the high pressure water to cut your eye apart. That makes sense correct, OSHA generally has rules and regulations to protect employee safety because they know there are hazards in the workplace, and this is one of them.

Nevertheless, we had one of our franchisee managers in Sacramento California develop carpal tunnel, and although he had a precondition from his work formally as a grocery store clerk, he lost use of his right hand. This is because he had to keep pressing the gun off and on as he was cleaning the cars, and if he held the gun on all the time he was still putting pressure on his wrist because the gun was spring-loaded, that way it would automatically shut off if he dropped, as per OSHA safety regs.

After this occurred what he would do is switch hands, and put a tennis ball in between the trigger and the plastic housing which encased the trigger to keep the gun on all the time. This prevented carpal tunnel from preventing him from working. Other franchisees and their employees eventually did the same thing. On one hand we had OSHA standards disallowing such practices, but in the real world and in the field the employees and the franchisees realized they had to overcome muscle cramps, pain, and potential future carpal tunnel and they had to come up with a solution, and that's what they chose.

Eventually we found that there were some manufacturers of pressure washing guns, they did not have to OSHA standards in mind, and these guns had a special lock mechanism or ring which would keep the trigger on all the time. Many of our competitors were using guns without triggers, everyone in the industry knows this is a problem. When you are considering risk management, reducing risks, and dealing with hazards, these are the kinds of things which you will have to decide in a small business. Please consider all this.