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What is the Cost of Ice?

By Tim McGinnis, Safety, Health, & Risk Manager 

We can calculate the cost of operating a car wash based on the price of chemicals, equipment, and utilities, but what is the cost of ice? We’re not talking about ice from a freezer or vending machine but instead referring to untreated ice on your property.

If it is untouched, and nobody walks on it, is it free? If you treat it with ice melt, does it cost you pennies? What if someone, whether an employee or customer, slips? What are the costs then? Let’s look at your responsibilities as an owner for providing a hazard-free property for everyone on your lot. 

Car wash properties are filled with various hazards that are emphasized regularly. When it comes to electricity, chemicals, and equipment that moves all day, we typically manage those associated hazards extremely well and consistently. We understand the importance of maintaining our interior and exterior areas, especially where customers walk. Unfortunately, despite an owner doing everything right most of the time, one instance of negligence can ruin a reputation and incur the costs of liability, medical treatment, and workers’ compensation. 

Walking surfaces, which compose the greatest area of any property, are typically the location for most incidents. According to data from the Department of Labor, slips, trips, and falls account for 25% of workplace injuries, with 16% caused by injuries on the ground/same level. These numbers are only for employees, but it can be assumed that customers are exposed to those same hazards if they are not corrected.

What can you do to minimize risk, so that you can focus on washing cars? 

Minimizing risk is an ongoing process, but it does not have to consume each day. It requires your and your employees’ attention to hazard identification and mitigation. If the weather calls for snow or ice, pre-treat your property. If you have problem areas, engineer out the hazard if possible, and if not, ensure those areas are constantly monitored, or install barricades to prevent people from accessing the hazard. If you create the hazard, such as a spill, clean it up as soon as possible, and put up signage to notify people of the risk. If you are doing maintenance to your property, complete the job in its entirety. If you remove an object, remove it down to ground level and, if needed, patch the hole. 

If you are negligent in addressing hazards, and someone is injured, you will soon learn the costs of inaction. Whether it’s employee workers’ compensation or a possible lawsuit; an investigation by OSHA and possible fines plus corrective actions; or a customer’s medical bills, legal action, and potential unfavorable media attention, these costs add up and can take years to resolve.

There are other ways to prevent incidents and spiraling costs to your bottom line. Addressing the following five areas will ensure you are on top of your game and help protect all who enter your property.

  1. Emphasize awareness and prioritize education, especially for employees.
  2. Install proper lighting that allows people to see where they are walking.
  3. Utilize safety hazard signage that brings awareness to obstacles, both seen and unseen.
  4. Contain spills and mitigate them immediately.
  5. Enforce proper footwear for employees.

These actions help make site safety an easy and fluid process involving your entire team, protecting them and your customers. 

It turns out the cost of ice is a fluctuating amount that can be managed if you actively control risks. Excuses such as “I didn’t know” are not defendable in court. In the legal arena, workers’ compensation and litigation will win every time if it is determined that you were negligent in any way, and the costs continue to rise.

We all want successful outcomes for our car washes and safe spaces for employees and customers, so proactively manage every aspect of your business, including potential hazards.


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