PARKING HEALTH SAFETY
a1 & a2 & a3 – The Benefits of Stretching for Your Attendants
By Kathy Phillips
Physically demanding jobs require preparation. Stretching to warm up the muscles of the body is a good way to prepare for a physically active day. Valet attendants in particular should be encouraged to begin their work day with stretching exercises. As an owner and operator of a valet or parking service, you will find that this can help reduce and often eliminate injuries.
For both valet and parking lot attendants to perform their tasks effectively and avoid injury, they must be moderately flexible, agile and in relatively good physical condition. Otherwise, an injury such as a pulled muscle can create a business interruption and leave your operation under-staffed and facing liability in costs associated with the injury and potential unhappy customers.
Scientific evidence does not definitively demonstrate a direct relationship between stretching programs and injury reduction in the workplace. However, it stands to reason that parking professionals may benefit from warming up their muscles before sprinting off to retrieve a car.
Many doctors and occupational safety and health professionals believe there is a correlation between stretching and avoiding injury. They have implemented warm-up programs that not only result in fewer injuries, but also have significantly improved employee morale.
If you choose to implement a stretching program, be sure to keep in mind that the guidance to participate in the activity should be strictly voluntary. Stretching exercises could be directed by a company representative or management person at the start of each workday or posted in areas clearly visible to employees as reminders.
Consider a stretching program as part of your company’s overall wellness effort. Below are helpful guidelines to consider when implementing a stretch-and-flex program:
• Engage a physical therapist or exercise professional to help identify stretching exercises that will benefit your workers. (Your local occupational health clinic may even offer such services at no cost.)
• Provide training to the manager or shift lead so they can properly demonstrate and conduct the exercises for your workers.
• Ensure that your employees are warmed up before starting stretching exercises. This may be as simple as walking from their vehicle to the office or place where they report into work.
• Be mindful that stretching should create only a slight pull, not cause significant discomfort. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat at least three times.
Gate-Arm Safety Tips
Gate-arm accidents are responsible for 5% of all reported personal injury claims occurring in parking garages, says a study conducted by the International Parking Institute. They also present the third-highest average dollar amount, at $2,800 per claim.
In one reported incident, a parking lot gate arm hit a pedestrian’s head, causing severe brain damage and resulting in a $6 million liability claim. An investigation revealed that parking employees had manually adjusted the weight and strength of the arm, which activated and descended on the person’s head when he walked under it.
Investigators determined multiple factors contributed to this unfortunate and expensive incident:
• Untrained employees had made adjustments to the gate arm.
• The injured person was walking in an area not designated for pedestrian use.
• The gate arm was not padded and did not have adequate safety features.
Modern gate-arm systems are designed with special controls to limit the potential of injury to people or vehicles. By law, they must have auto-reversing mechanisms that immediately rebound the gate arm when it makes contact with an object. If it is properly padded with a protective sleeve, injuries can be minimized by the rebound device.
Safer systems contain a non-contact reserving mechanism that senses an obstruction and reserves the gate arm before it makes contact and remains open until the obstruction is removed. This feature affords greater protection of vulnerable pedestrians such as children and frail elderly people.
In either case, gate-arm maintenance or adjustments must be made by trained specialists who understand its operation and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for service and repair. Never let untrained employees work on facility equipment.
If the gates do not raise or lower as designed, instruct employees to lock the gate in the open position and immediately submit a repair request. Under no circumstances should safety systems be bypassed or extra counterweight be added to the arm.
It is equally important to avoid gate-arm accidents by preventing pedestrians from walking through or near them. Post warning signs that verbally and pictorially indicate the danger of the moving gate and strongly prohibit pedestrian entry. Other prominent signs should clearly direct pedestrians to the appropriate walkways. People may still be tempted to take shortcuts through the gate, so ensure that there is an appropriate walkway or barrier alongside the gates even if pedestrians are not intended in that area.
Some garage operators leave the gate arms open on days when parking fees are not collected. Ensure that the arms are locked in place on these occasions and that a redundant feature blocks the arm’s descent if the lock fails. Some systems have “tie backs” to manually restrain the arm.
Gate-arm sleeves should also have reflective decals so they are clearly visible at night or if the power goes out. Many manufacturers sell sleeves with additional signage such as “Vehicles Only” or “Danger – No Pedestrians” that help reinforce your message that gate arms pose a potential injury hazard to those on foot.
Gate arms are an effective way to control vehicle access to your parking garage. Be sure they operate safely to protect employees and clients from injury.
Kathy Phillips, CIC, CPP, is First Vice President of Alliant Insurance Services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from October, 2011