By Mary Oquendo
As I was driving down the aptly named Long Mountain Road just after another snowstorm, I looked to the side and half jokingly thought, “If I drive off the road and land in the ravine, I won’t be found until next spring.” The next thought that crossed my mind was, “ Oh crap, if I drive off the road and land in the ravine, I won’t be found until next spring.” There was easily five feet of white snow that would have buried my white van.
I realized I had no personal plan for my welfare and safety. Later that evening, I sat down and began formulating my “employee” safety manual. It has been tweaked over the years through personal experience and paying attention to the stories of other professionals.
On The Road
I keep a copy of the day’s schedule and client phone numbers on my kitchen table. It lets my family know where I am going to be. My husband is my In Case of Emergency (I.C.E.) contact on my fully charged cell phone. In the event of an accident, emergency personnel know whom to contact. Most newer cell phones also have locators on them. By linking my phone to my computer, at least my phone will be found if I go missing. For under $200 you can install a vehicle locator or place a personal locater in a pocket. Either of these requires a wireless service provider.
I keep a folder in my van with instructions on what I need to do in case of an accident. It includes: contact police and insurance company, take photos with my cell phone, and keep cool (Keep cool is highlighted). As a general rule, I will not even talk to the other driver. I let the police handle that. That rule went into effect after the person who passed me on a service lane, hit my vehicle, and then brought over parts of my van that were attached to his car. This protocol manual is vital as it helps you to think rather than react.
The decision to reschedule in poor weather and road conditions has as much to do with my driving skills as it does with the perceived skills of other operators. I am not going to risk my life or livelihood because someone overestimated his or her prowess behind the wheel.
Wear your seatbelt; it can save your life. Many states, as well as the American Automobile Association (AAA) offer defensive driving courses to augment your driving abilities.
I keep a spare key in my pocket for those times I lock myself out. I have done that on numerous occasions. In addition, I keep a copy of my license and a spare $20 in my emergency protocol file for when I leave my pocketbook at home. And yes, I have done that more than once as well. While my van is in a repair facility, I have the service desk indicate numerous places on the repair order that all doors are to be locked when parked in their lot. We have thousands of dollars worth of tools in our vehicles.
At Client’s Home
You are under no obligation to finish or even start a pet. If I get the “willies” or in any way feel uncomfortable, I will not enter a home. I have used family or mechanical emergency on more than one occasion. If you are in the house, ensure you have a way to leave that does not require going past the owner. Knowing where multiple exits are located is also valuable in the event of a house fire. There are personal protection sprays that are legal in most states (check with your local police department). If you use a protection spray, fill out a police report.
I keep the door locked to my van at all times while I am on the job. While working, your attention is on the pet. The dryers are loud, and you may not hear someone trying to enter your vehicle. It may be perfectly harmless in that it is a neighbor or kid. But if you are startled, you may inadvertently injure the pet or the now opened door allows a pet to escape.
Every dog I walk from the front door of the client’s home to my van is on my lead. I do not want a dog to slip out of a too loose collar and have to chase after it. Cats are in carriers.
Personal Safety Equipment
We work in confined spaces. There is not much back up room if a pet decides to bite. Your best piece of safety equipment is your eyes. Pay attention to the pet’s body language. If you are uncertain of pre-bite signals from a pet, then a workshop on behavior is in order. It is a staple seminar at many trade shows. If you are bit, secure the animal and immediately clean the wound. Seek medical treatment if necessary.
Necessary safety equipment includes:
Quality floor mats.
They will reduce muscular and skeletal stress. The cheaper ones will not hold up well and are not cushioned enough to be of real value.
Nail clippings and dremel shavings can cause permanent eye damage.
If you are uncertain that a facemask is truly necessary, tape a white paper towel near your workstation. What shows up on that paper towel is now in your lungs and nasal cavity.
High velocity dryers are in the same decibel range as jackhammers. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Agency), 15 minutes a day in that range will damage hearing.
Humane restraint systems.
Most of us work by ourselves. A humane restraint system may allow us to safely groom.
Carbon monoxide detector.
I have intake and outtake fans running, but if the lawn service happens to be there as well, my intake fan may pull in carbon monoxide from the lawn equipment. Fumes from my generator can seep into my workspace from a hole in the floor. If a house call groomer is working in a garage, fumes from the boiler can fill the area. A detector will alert you to this very deadly gas.
Secured fire extinguishers.
An unsecured fire extinguisher may discharge during transit. It is messy to clean up and can damage equipment and tools.
Instead of grabbing a high sugar/fat/calorie meal on the road, I pack a lunch. Poor eating habits lead to weight gain which places stress on our organs. All refrigerated items are in a cooler. I do not want a side trip to the emergency room due to food poisoning.
We work in dehydrating conditions, which lead to organ stress, and eventually to premature organ failure. I bring bottled water to drink throughout the day. My general rule of thumb is 8 ounces of water per pet, more in the summer.
I dress appropriately for weather conditions and will reschedule if it is too hot or bitterly cold. The decision lies in whether my A/C can cool it down or if the heater can warm it up enough to be comfortable to work in for the pet and myself.
Grooming is a physically demanding job. Massage, energy work, and chiropractic treatments are not a luxury, but a necessity.
Taking the time to think and prepare for the various situations that can occur to mobile groomers prepares us mentally. We can deliberate consciously rather than react subconsciously. We then make better decisions that positively impact our lives and livelihood.