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Wednesday, 17 February 2016 21:53

MassCar Training Helps Shops Maintain EPA Compliance

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In January and February 2016, the Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance and Technology (OTA) hosted six MA Clean Auto Repair (MassCAR) guidance and training sessions across the state.

According to Tiffany Skogstrom, Environmental Analyst for OTA, the goals of the training sessions were “to bring the MassCAR guidance document to the automotive industry across the state of MA. The purpose of the guidance is to give the shops the tools to not only stay in compliance with environmental, health and safety regulations, but also to introduce owners to safer alternative chemicals and practices that can be easily implemented in the shop.”

The OTA is a state agency that provided free and confidential pollution prevention, toxics use reduction and resource conservation assistance to businesses in MA. In the 1990s, this agency created the Collision Repair Auto Shop Help (CRASH) program, which was the state’s first attempt to produce a clear, easy-to-follow summary of environmental, health and safety rules and best practices for collision repair facilities. Intended to help shops maintain compliance with laws, find ways to improve operations, and reduce unnecessary costs, liabilities, exposures and releases, the CRASH course was well-received and widely-utilized.

The MassCAR guidance and training program began as an update of the CRASH course to include auto repair shops with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The MassCAR program was developed to help auto body and repair shops maintain compliance with environmental, health and safety requirements, and to learn about and implement pollution prevention and other best management practices. Skogstrom stated, “EHS requirements are designed to help protect our land, water, and air quality, as well as the health and safety of everyone in and around your shop. By complying with these requirements, you can help protect your shop from severe penalties, legal liabilities, and lost labor hours associated with worker injuries. If you take the additional steps to prevent pollution and operate your shop according to the best management practices, as described in this manual, you can help reduce your operating costs by cutting down on the use of hazardous materials and the generation of waste.”

The MassCAR manual is divided into three parts. The first is a checklist that summarizes the actions a shop can take to ensure regulations are followed and to demonstrate the shop’s good faith efforts to maintain compliance while protecting its workers and the environment. The MassCAR fact sheets include detailed information about key auto body and repair topics identified by the project partners, and these are designed to provide more information, benefits, possible obstacles and steps forward for implementing each topic outlined within the fact sheet. The final part is an Environmental Achievement Statement, which is a downloadable self-certification document the shop can use to advertise and celebrate its environmental practices.

Skogstrom explained, “Companies following the practices in the CRASH Course were often considered as operating with good faith, and the intent of this guidance is similar. The MassCAR Guidance includes a checklist that you can use not only to ensure that important actions are identified and carried out, but also constitutes documentation of your efforts to do the right thing.”

Through OTA’s six training sessions earlier this year, they were able to provide training to around 100 automotive industry professionals, and they were held at voc-tech schools around the state. Skogstrom stated, “The vocational schools were extremely helpful in providing training space and helping get the word out about the MassCAR events. They also provided valuable feedback on which topics and information should be included in the guide. In addition, shops were able to come visit the schools, see the facilities, and learn about resources provided at the hosting schools.

“In publishing the MassCAR guidance, OTA hopes to stimulate ongoing discussion so that the guidance and material will be a living document that prompts continuing engagement that will evolve and improve over time,” Skogstrom said. “To that end, OTA has formed the Massachusetts Clean Auto Repair (MassCAR) Partnership and we invite all interested parties to join. There is no fee or formal process to join. MassCAR Partnership solely requires participating in the effort to improve the guidance and / or adopt greener practices in your shop. Any shop that provides feedback to MassCAR material will be acknowledged in the MassCAR guide.”

The MassCAR guidance and training sessions were taught by Skogstrom as well as Marina Gayl, Environmental Engineer for OTA. Skogstrom joined the OTA in 2013, and before that, she created the Boston Public Health Commission's Safe Shops Project, an environmental health and safety training program for Boston body and repair shops. Over the past 20 years, Gayl has visited many MA shops to help them maintain compliance with spray booth air regulations and other topics aimed at preventing pollution. 

Although OTA held six MassCAR training sessions in the first two months of the year, they do not have any additional sessions scheduled, and they’ll be unable to offer this training on a regular basis; however, in the near future, the MassCAR curriculum will be available for download, either as an entire guide or in individual fact sheets, at www.mass.gov/eea/ota/masscar.

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