Complying with safety regulations is essential to maintaining your business
As we work with clients, we find that many water equipment dealers are unaware of the various safety regulations with which they are obligated by law to comply. A number of dealers fail to understand the serious implications of not meeting federal and state safety and OSHA regulations. Ignorance or disregard of safety laws exposes customers, employees and you to great risk. Accidents, injuries, death and higher operating cost are often the result of neglecting safety training, practices, processes and policies.
The failure to comply opens you to the threat of lawsuits, serious fines and even prison terms. The following are a few of the regulations you must observe, but remember, this is only a sample. You should have a workplace safety audit performed. OSHA will perform this service for free, but many business people feel that would be like asking the IRS to look at their books; however, there are a number of private firms like ours that offer confidential safety audits.
Many dealerships in our industry have equipment that requires special training and licenses to operate. One example is the lift trucks/tow motors seen conveying heavy loads in the warehouse and on and off of vehicles. The CFR (Code of Federal Regulation) states that any person who operates a lift truck or tow motor must be qualified, and competent and possess a valid license. Failure to ensure the licensure of all those who operate such equipment at your dealership is courting a liability.
All chemicals at your facility are required to be properly labeled and stored in accordance to Workplace Hazardous Material Information Safety (WHMIS). WHMIS training is to be provided to every worker annually, and all workers are to have a WHMIS certificate of completion in their safety training file. You must also have the proper Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemicals in your facility, including the chemicals in each salesperson’s demo kit. The MSDS must contain the following information about each hazardous chemical: Identity, including any scientific name of the chemical; information about the physical state of the chemical; any physical hazard that may be associated with it, such as flammability; how the chemical can enter the body and the health effects it can cause; how to prevent overexposure to the chemical; what the user should do if inadvertent or emergency exposure occurs; and how to safely store, handle and dispose of the chemical. Additionally, all employees are to be trained on the materials at the dealership and knowledgeable about the required action in case of an incident. These MSDS are to be properly filed and posted where the chemicals are stored along with a master listing in case of a fire.
Fire Extinguishers & First Aid
There are laws that regulate the size, type and number of fire extinguishers required at your dealership based on the type of facility and square footage. The number, type and size of first aid kits and stations is also regulated based on your facility and number of employees. Furthermore, a number of employees must be properly trained on the use of these items based on the number of employees. Keep in mind that secondary buildings, vehicles and all areas of a workplace need to be considered when assessing and complying with the CFRs. Also, remember that this equipment must be inspected and documented by a qualified person monthly.
You must post compliance posters in a visible location that informs your staff about safety. Make sure that emergency exits are lit and the paths to the exits are free of boxes and debris. You must keep electric panels clear, and you may not store items in bathrooms or rooms with electrical panels.
Safety Files & Meetings
Safety laws also require that if you have more than five employees, you must have a monthly safety meeting and document this in each employee’s safety file. You also must have a Joint Health & Safety Committee consisting of a member of management and a member of non- management to oversee safety.
These are just a few of the obligations a business takes on for the safety of their employees and customers. The problem in our industry is that many of us don’t have a written employment agreement or personnel files. You should be aware that calling your staff contractors and not employees will not get you out of these obligations. You may go a long time without any problems, but someday, an employee may complain to OSHA or DOL, or an accident may occur. Then you will be asked by the courts to prove that you were in compliance with federal, state and local laws.
Everything you own is riding on the proper safety measures at your business and on your vehicles. Ask yourself if your business is a safe bet. wqp