Modern car dealerships make steep investments to ensure that their facilities are both visually appealing and brand compliant.
Behind the scenes, equal effort and investment is made to ensure a safe, healthy, and accessible environment for employees, customers, vendors, contractors, and visitors.
This encompasses everything from providing products and services for people with disabilities to the proper use of diagnostic/repair equipment in the service department.
Laws governing health and safety can vary from province to province. These laws outline an employer’s responsibilities in minimizing the risk of health and workplace injuries, and all dealerships are subjected to periodic audits and inspections.
For service departments, an assortment of tools, equipment, chemicals (and movement of vehicles) requires constant diligence to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations.
To protect themselves against potential harm or injury, automotive technicians will often wear safety gear, such as surgical masks, surgical gloves, safety glasses and footwear, hearing protection, respirators, face shields, and full body protective suits.
This safety gear is necessary because of the toxic, flammable, and caustic nature of at-risk products, which pose a health risk to employees who are not properly insulated from exposure or trained in the safe use of these products.
Battery acid, brake dust, brake fluid, antifreeze, rustproofing sprays, air-conditioning refrigerant, bottled oxygen and acetylene are examples of everyday materials that are handled, stored, and discarded in compliance with local bylaws and provincial regulations.
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Other areas that relate to health and safety include employee education, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), first-aid training, labelling of hazardous materials and implementing programs and procedures to ensure safe workplaces.
Regulations stipulate that dealerships must ensure that all service staff receive proper training in safe work procedures before using a hoist. A section of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) even requires that auto hoists be inspected and tested regularly.
Similarly, training is required for tire handling equipment, welding equipment use and storage, strut and spring compressors, and brake lathes.
In Ontario, the OHSA is legislation aimed at protecting workers from health and safety hazards on the job. It spells out duties for all workplace parties and rights for workers, establishes procedures for dealing with dangerous machinery, equipment or materials, and provides for enforcement of the law where compliance has not been achieved voluntarily.
Dealers must perform a multitude of tasks, including the training of workers in the use of mechanized tools, safety equipment and first-aid procedures. They must keep written records of training and establish and maintain a comprehensive occupational health and safety program, including a written health and safety policy and an incident investigation procedure.
When a worker or supervisor reports a potentially hazardous situation, dealers must initiate an immediate investigation. All serious incidents or work-related accidents must be reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board — Ontario (www.wsib.on.ca).
The WSIB has the power to lay charges against any dealership or workplace that is in violation of the OHSA.
To further safeguard workplaces, any dealership or workplace in Ontario that employs more than 20 people is obligated to form a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) of at least two persons, who represent the workers and employer at a workplace.
The primary role of the JHSC is to identify workplace health and safety problems and bring them to the attention of the employer. They identify hazards in the workplace, obtain information from employers, make recommendations to the employer, and investigate work refusals and serious accidents.
At our dealership, we take our employees’ safety seriously. I don’t want anyone to get hurt in my shop. All employees need to go home in the same or better condition that they came to work!
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to [email protected] or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.