By Marty Hollingshead
I want to talk about the importance of safety and compliance and its return on investment, as well as the cost and potential liabilities. Let’s start off with the question of what exactly does compliance mean for the automotive recycler? For this article, we will talk about two main areas of compliance, the first being safety, and the second being environmental.
So, what does compliance mean for the automotive recycler? I will use two examples here. We will call them “Recycler A” and “Recycler B.”
Safety: Recycler A realizes the importance of operating in a safe manner. He has processes and rules in place and gives his employees the training, tools, and resources needed to do their job safely and properly. He is aware of all of the hazards that are always present in his business and has taken a proactive approach to avoid these hazards, and keep his employees and his business out of harm’s way. He knows that processes evolve and he makes changes as needed to improve his processes. He also keeps his employees trained on newer and better methods to do their job safely and more efficiently.
Recycler B does just the opposite of Recycler A. He is not concerned about operating in a safe and compliant manner. His process consists of the “fly by the seat of your pants” approach, and he basically goes from one crisis to another. He feels that doing things properly is too much work, and costs too much money. He has a hard time hiring and retaining good employees, and because of his actions, he has a hard time making ends meet.
Environmental: Recycler A also realizes the importance of being environmentally compliant and does this using the best management practices. He also keeps his business clean, neat, and organized. He does a good job of removing fluids, batteries, and freon from the vehicles, and he takes his time to do the job properly. He is aware of current environmental regulations and does his best to be compliant with them. He does regular inspections to make sure that everything is by the book.
Recycler A enjoys peace of mind in knowing that he is doing things right. He does not have to sweat getting a visit by regulators, whether it is the EPA, OSHA, law enforcement, or even the usual insurance inspection.
Recycler B does not believe that being environmentally compliant is important. Again, this requires three things that he does not like to give: time, work, and money. His approach is to manage by crisis.
What are the Costs and Benefits?
As long as there are vehicles, there will be a need for automotive recycling. The difference in results is in the approach.
We have all visited other recyclers and we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. One thing is for sure, we always learn something from these visits. From Recycler A, we learn new and better ways to improve our business. With Recycler B, we learn what not to do.
So, what do these examples mean for the rest of us? Yes, doing all of these things does require a commitment of time, work, and money. The smart approach here is to think of this as an investment in your business. You only get out of something what you put into it. One thing I can say for certain is this: the responsible and compliant operators are always the most profitable. They are good stewards of the environment and they care about their employees, as well as the community in which they do business.
ARA has a lot of great resources available for the best ways to operate your business, as well as employee training.
There is the Certified Auto Recycler (CAR) Program that is offered through ARA. The ARA Certification Committee has done a great job in creating this program. It consists of great, practical standards that we all need to use as a guide for how we operate our businesses.
There is also the ARA University – a free ARA Member Benefit! This is a fantastic training tool for business owners as well as their employees. It has great content and is a great resource for training and education available to all ARA members.
Your State associations are also a great resource. For instance, my home state of Indiana offers the great, practical, and proactive INCARES program. This hybrid environmental/safety program was created in 2014 by VET Environmental with the input and help of our State association.
What’s holding you back?
For all of us, no matter how good we are, there is always room for improvement.
We all need to strive to be the best that we can be and eliminate the negative junkyard perception of our industry. In the words of Mike Swift, “Let’s Make Auto Recycling Great Again.”
We all need to support and be a member of our State and National Associations. Support ARA, support your State Associations.
We are not junkyards! We are Automotive Recyclers.
Martin “Marty” Hollingshead is President of Northlake Auto Recyclers, Hammond, IN, and is the Second Vice President/Treasurer of the Automotive Recyclers Association.