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Coronavirus and your repair shop: how to minimize the impact

Editor’s Note: Carolyn Coquillette is the founder and CEO of Shop-Ware Inc., based in San Francisco, and is owner of Luscious Garage, a hybrid specialty shop, also in San Francisco. Below is from Coquillette’s Shop-Ware blog.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) will impact your auto repair business. More people are staying home and therefore driving less, which will reduce demand for services in the near term. Auto repair remains a public service, so those who must travel may do so safely. As you continue business, your focus will be the health and safety of your employees and the concerns of your customers.  At this time, we don’t know as much we’d like about COVID-19. 

Carolyn Coquillette

The current guidance from OSHA states:
“Spread from person-to-person is most likely among close contacts (about 6 feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”

From the source CDC article:
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms — there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

While contracting the virus is more likely through person-to-person contact, it is possible through contact with a customer’s car.  Both staff and customers concerns should be taken seriously.

Best practices for everyone: Wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and practice social distancing (maintain 6 feet between you and other people).

Best practices for your shop:

  • Any employee who feels sick should stay home. Offer Paid Time Off so folks can do so without financial penalty.
  • At the shop, minimize physical exposure between staff members and customers.
  • During drop off, businesses running Shop-Ware can gather customers’ pre-approvals by sharing the estimate via the application, so in-person exchange is not required at the counter. (For example, customers can leave their vehicle in the parking lot and keys in a drop box.)
  • Clean the counter at least once a day. Use antimicrobial wipes or spray (Lysol, Clorox, any product that says “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial” on the label).
  • Use the same treatment on vehicle keys.
  • Consider closing your waiting room.
  • Instruct all staff, not just techs, to wear disposable gloves (latex/nitrile) when physically interacting with a vehicle:
  • Wear the pair of gloves during the entire interaction (opening the door, driving or moving within the shop, or touching interior surfaces).
  • Technicians can wear the same pair inside and outside the vehicle (under the hood etc.)
  • Dispose the gloves after the interaction is over and immediately wash hands.
  • Put on a new pair of gloves before working on the next vehicle.
  • Avoid touching face, hands, or eyes when gloves are on.

Your business can promote these efforts to customers to help mitigate concerns and reduce unnecessary contact at the counter.

These efforts will:

  • Minimize staff contracting COVID-19 from customers and vice-versa
  • Avoid inadvertent transfer of COVID-19 between vehicles (however unlikely)
  • Show leadership to your staff and customers with an informed response

This is an evolving issue; stay up to date with your local health departments’ recommendations and regulations.

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