How Alaska auto body shop fine tuned its OSH program
In business for more than 50 years, Spruce Park Auto Body, Inc., of Anchorage, Alaska continues to strive to “do more and better” in its industry and with its employees, who number 140 workers. The family-owned and operated business has made investments in advanced technology to repair the vehicles of today and anticipate the needs of repairing the vehicles of tomorrow. In addition to investing in advanced technology, Spruce Park Auto Body consciously seeks to change their work processes to complement the safety and health of their employees, customers, and the environment.
The owner and manager, Ken Perrault says he realized that the company cannot succeed if its employees are not treated well or given the necessary equipment and training to perform their jobs. The employees’ safety has always been a top priority at Spruce Park Auto Body.
Safety aspects were being missed
When Perrault and his father were first approached by Alaska Occupational Safety and Health (AKOSH) about safety and health consultation assistance, they only saw it as an opportunity “to do better.” While the employer felt that they were leaders in the collision repair industry, they suspected that there may be safety aspects of the business that were being missed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and in several territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.
Respiratory protection, hazcom improvements
When Spruce Park Auto Body began to work with AKOSH consultants, they became aware of their capacity to fine tune their safety and health program. Before their encounter with AKOSH, the employer knew of general hazards associated with automotive paint operations, but he was not aware of all the cost-effective ways the company could implement safety and health improvements. After the employer’s initial consultation visits, they immediately began to implement advanced safety measures. These measures included upgraded respiratory protection controls and updated Safety Data Sheet manuals. Additionally, the employer gained a progressive understanding of how to effectively implement a Hazard Communication program.
During Spruce Park Auto Body’s time in the On-site Consultation Program, they applied for OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). SHARP recognizes small business employers who have used OSHA On-site Consultation Services and operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program. Acceptance of worksites into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that distinguishes a company amongst its business peers as a model for workplace safety and health.
Zero injury, illness rates
In 2001, Spruce Park Auto Body received admittance into SHARP and has maintained this status over the years. As a result of the employer’s participation in SHARP, their injury and illness rates dropped to and remained at zero since 2011. The company has addressed many potential hazards that they would have probably been unaware if it were not for SHARP. Through SHARP, they have also made considerable capital investment in workplace safety controls and have also developed a process to involve their staff in deciding what protective systems to use. An example includes allowing their staff to give feedback about the personal protective equipment they use, such as the supplied air respirators used in all areas where paint is handled, which are above the industry standards. Moreover, Spruce Park Auto Body replaced old solvent-based paints with water-based paints which has reduced their chemical waste stream and significantly lowered the potential of employees being incidentally exposed to hazardous volatile organic compounds. Participation in the SHARP reinforces the idea that a strong commitment to safety and health not only has financial benefits, such as reduced workers compensation rates, but it also enabled them to be a leader in their industry.
Source: Ken Perrault. Owner and Manager. Spruce Park Auto Body, Inc.