Is Your Shop Emergency-Ready?

June 17, 2024

It was 12:34 on a Friday afternoon and our team was cranking out a solid day. We were dialed in on making sure we knew our customers’ expectations and what we needed to do to exceed them. We were paying attention to our “promise times,” customers’ requested services and providing our customers with thorough vehicle inspections to help them and their families stay safe today and plan for tomorrow.

Everything was going smoothly, until it wasn’t.

All of a sudden, a technician yelled, “Help! Help!” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him jump around a tire machine to catch his fellow team member who was falling towards the ground. His teammate had passed out cold while changing a tire. There was no advance warning and nothing the employee was doing was putting him at risk. Yet suddenly, we had an emergency on our hands.

This wasn’t the first time an event of this gravity happened while I was working in a shop. Many of you have had sudden emergencies occur on your watches, as well — hopefully, without tragic endings.

The majority of the conversations we have in our industry are focused on being the best in every area — except this one. Sales skills, certifications, systems management and profitability hold a majority share. We constantly focus on best practices, tools, tips and tricks that give us an edge in achieving our goals. We lean on manufacturers, product experts, consultants, peer groups and the like. We arm ourselves with knowledge in an attempt to harness and improve every detail within our control. These things enable us to prioritize and make clear decisions on a regular basis.

We focus on every little detail required to “succeed,” yet somehow, by and large, tend to overlook the details to prepare for helping each other when the worst strikes. Chances are, very few of you have received risk mitigation and emergency response preparedness training at any point in your tenure. The good news is that while we can’t prevent every emergency from happening, there are many things — 100% within our control — that can help mitigate, and more importantly, help us respond appropriately when emergencies happen.

Full disclosure: I’m not a risk mitigation and/or an emergency response subject matter expert. It’s likely you aren’t, either. We’re tire guys and gals who have learned from the school of hard knocks. We work tirelessly — getting as much expert advice as possible on how to improve our businesses. Why should emergencies be any different?

Just as I often suggest inviting your local fire marshal and OSHA teams into your facility to prepare, I am suggesting you reach out to your local EMS/EMT experts. Invite them into your facility to assess your work, your facility and your programs. Request their assistance in creating an emergency preparedness and response plan.

You also could call upon both public and private entities, such as your local education systems, community colleges and high schools. The work you do together could be a very valuable part of not only your employee handbooks, but your onboarding and review processes.

Even if the above groups or individuals can’t or won’t assist, I bet they’ll be willing to point you in the right direction. Let’s outline some of the things they’re likely to bring to the table.

Do you have a fully accessible and comprehensive list of emergency phone numbers? Sure, we all know to call 911, but what about other emergency or care facilities? Has your workers compensation provider given you step-by-step instructions? Do team members know who to call in various situations? Do they know who’s responsible for making those calls?

What about fires? Are the locations of extinguishers and exits documented? Are the extinguishers serviced annually and inspected monthly? Are all exits left unlocked and unobstructed during business hours? Are fire detectors tested regularly? How about sprinkler systems?

How about emergency shut-offs? Are your shop’s main breakers fully operational and unobstructed? If you have a gas line, does everyone know where it is and do you have the tools you need stationed next to the shut-off? Are those tools maintained and inspected? How about main airline valves?

What about personnel files? Are they kept up-to-date as a part of your quarterly or annual reviews? What about how to proceed and manage your team members immediately following an incident?

We could go on and on. While the list of safety and emergency preparedness items that your business is responsible for isn’t small, the potential outcomes of failing to prepare aren’t either. They could be devastating. We all know a lot can change in a minute. Why not be a hero yourself and prepare your team to step up in the event of an emergency?

About the Author

Randy O'Connor

Tire and auto industry veteran Randy O’Connor is the Owner/Principal of D2D Development Group (Dealer to Dealer Development Group.) He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, please visit