Adam Gomes

Adam Gomes CMIOSH outlines some of the issues small businesses and temporary summer ventures may overlook, after observing some bad practice at his local hand car wash.


With the sun shining and the World Cup in full flow I, like many other people, have been enjoying the hot temperatures and summer to the fullest. This weekend after I took my kids to their swimming lessons I decided to go and get my car cleaned. The bright sunshine is great, but I can no longer hide the dirt patches, which I thought I could get away with in the usual drab English weather. So, I bit the bullet and took a drive down to my local car wash.

It opened up around three years ago in the yard of an old abandoned gym. I drive past on the way to work every day and it always seems to be very busy, so I thought I would try it out. On this occasion, it was a scorching hot afternoon. Upon entering my health and safety ‘Spidey’ senses that we are cursed with in this profession kicked in. I noticed a long list of issues, that in my opinion, needed a lot of work and I started to question how well regulated these type of pop-up car washes were.



The issues in the car park ranged from no visible signage, low levels of shade for staff from the mid-day sun, exposure to constant car exhaust fumes over a pro-longed period, no PPE, poor cable management and the lack of a traffic management system.


On the day in question the site seemed to be more concerned about the maximum number of cars it could fit in at once. Staff were swerving in and out of slow moving vehicles, hoses were all over the place along with large pools of water. I also wondered what they had in place in relation to the management of CoSHH as they will be dealing with cleaning chemicals constantly.


On entrance there was a sign with a list of options for a clean and I decided to push the boat out and go for the silver option (gold was too expensive and its birthday season in our household). This was an external clean, polish and shine and then an internal valet. I thought this was the best choice especially as the kids had been throwing crisps and sweets around on the way home.


When I parked up to get the inside cleaned I tried to speak to a couple of the staff members and asked them if they have any procedures in place for some of these issues. Unfortunately, they were unable to offer me any answers. I then looked around for a manager or number to call but again couldn’t find anything. In the end I found a manager on site who had just come back from his break. The man came over and after I told him of my concerns he said he would investigate it and discuss it with his boss.


Small business concerns


After my experience at said car wash I was left wondering, how many are similar around the country? From the ones I have seen, they seem to be a very similar set up, so I would suggest that the same problems and issues exist elsewhere.


From my experience it seems that sometimes some smaller business struggle with getting to grips with health and safety in the workplace. It is either that they don’t fully understand what is required, or that they don’t have the resources to get the advice on what is required and how to implement it. I started to wonder how they could better regulate this and thought that maybe when a business is registered, it should have a help pack to highlight a business’s responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act and how to best implement a few of the basics. I think this would really help small businesses to implement health and safety from the start and make management and directors aware of what is required as a minimum by law.


In conclusion I hope the car washes around the UK that are not health and safety compliant wash away the bad practice and polish up on their safe systems of work.