It was a misty, cold and dreary fall afternoon in 1980 in Western New York; pretty typical for that time of year just ahead of the snow for which the region is known. It was early on in my automotive career and I was working at a 4×4 and Jeep salvage yard, rebuilding the manual transmissions that Rebel, our yardman, would remove from salvaged Jeeps.
These transmissions could be pretty difficult to disassemble with all the snow and salt exposure they got during the Buffalo winters. You can just imagine the type of persuasion that was required to get them apart. Hammers, acetylene torches and the occasional broken bolt were the norm.
On one particular teardown, I was using a large sledgehammer and a hardened pin to drive out one of the bearing shafts. Of course, I wasn’t using ear protection or safety glasses; heck, I was 20 years old and at that age we all think we are bulletproof and have the notion that safety gear is not cool.
THE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE
Unaware I was being observed by one of the owners, Bill came up to me and inquired as to what I was doing. I shared with him how I broke down the transmission, along with what I planned to do next to get it ready for reassembly. He was quite interested in how I did it, but he waited for the right time to share a personal story.
Bill asked me if I knew that he was blind in one eye. I wasn’t aware and asked how it happened. He said he was working at the salvage yard when he was about my age, and was trying to get something apart using a hammer and pin just like I was.
Bill said at one point he struck the hammer and felt a sting just under his eye and didn’t think much of it until he felt something warm on his chest. After he felt it and looked at his hand, he realized it was blood and that sting was from a sliver of the hardened pin that punctured his eye. He said the doctors couldn’t save the eye and he wished he had used safety glasses, along with a better procedure than using a hardened pin for a drift.
Bill’s story impacted my approach to safety. It made me realize we have only two eyes and 10 fingers, the loss of which can be devastating, but prevention of such accidents takes only moments.
WHY SAFETY SHOULD MATTER TO YOU?
It shows your heart. You care about your employees and what you do to ensure their safety demonstrates this to them. It showed how much Bill cared when he took the time to counsel me and share his story on such a tragic loss. He truly cared about me and my well-being, rather than any liability the company might have if I got hurt. His heart was revealed to me on that cold, winter day in the shop. Can your employees say the same about you?
Every day we focus on sales, ARO and bottom line profits. Does any of this really matter if we don’t have a safe workplace that ensures the security of our employees?
AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE
ExxonMobil is the largest oil company in the world and its safety credo is “Nobody Gets Hurt.” Safety briefings are the norm, whether you’re a contractor, an employee or a spouse on site for a seminar. Our shop has participated with AAA at several Car Care Inspection events, and prior to set up, an ExxonMobil employee always gave us a safety briefing. Safety is at the core of the identity of the ExxonMobil employee, and the company’s reputation for safety is reflected in these results: The number of lost-time incidents for employees are less than 1 incident per 400,000 work hours, according to ExxonMobil.
THE UNEXPECTED VISITOR
We know there are federal and state agencies put in place to make sure that industry, as a whole, remains safe. One agency we are all aware of is OSHA, but most in our industry are not aware that OSHA has the power to visit your facility at any time to inspect it and see if the workplace is safe. During the inspection, the OSHA representative has the right to cite each safety violation. Each citation can carry a fine up to $7,000, and willful violations can be up to $70,000. So, an
unexpected visit can have massive repercussions.
THE GOOD NEWS
OSHA does offer a voluntary inspection program, which exempts you from fines as long as you contact them, schedule an appointment and agree to fix the defects they find. This allows your shop to be proactive, rather than reactive, to items that are safety threats that you look past every day just because you have become accustomed to them. It’s a lot like what we try to teach to our customer — preventive maintenance is much cheaper than the repair. How often have we heard a noise or felt something on a test-drive that our customer hasn’t noticed because the problem had been around for such a long time?
OSHA’s On-Site Consultation program is put in place for employers who want to ensure and improve the wellbeing of their employees. In 2013, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program conducted approximately 30,000 visits to small business worksites, covering more than 1.5 million workers across the nation. Staying ahead of the curve as it relates to safety benefits you, the wellbeing of your employees and the bottom line.
While the subject of safety is not nearly as sexy as a new marketing program or the latest on SEO, it goes a long way toward ensuring your employees and company remain a vital component of your community, and you remain a profitable entity.