Safety and Health in the Auto Repair Shop Industry

We all know mechanics have a hard job. It’s dirty, loud and full of dangers. Working under vehicles, using heavy machinery and power tools, plus being on their feet all day and straining their backs and muscles; mechanics face a number of occupational hazards on a daily basis. But there’s more to their job than just the physical risk. I recently read a mechanic’s cancer story in Uganda while working at a vehicle repair and maintenance workshop, he realised he had unusual spots on his hands. It turned out to be skin cancer. Could it be it was negligence on his part on failure to wear personal protective equipment while at work or lack of awareness of the hazards he was exposed to during his service? I have been exploring my two cents thoughts on how well conversant we are with Occupational Safety and Health Act. This Act applies to all workplaces where any person is at work, whether temporarily or permanently. It is the duty of the employer to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees by providing personal protective equipment, carry out suitable risk assessments and inform all employees the inherent risks for purposes of their safety and health.
One of the OSHA standards most regularly violated by auto shops and mechanics is the right to know standard. This addresses the use of potentially hazardous chemicals, a very common occurrence in the automotive business. This standard simply requires that employees be notified in detail of the possible dangers of any of the chemicals they are using. OSHA insists that employees have a right to know how they might be affected by chemicals in the workplace. The right to know standard requires detailed labeling of all chemicals, inventory lists with information, training for employees in the safe use of chemicals and a written plan that outlines how the workplace plans to follow the right to know provision.
Some of the general precautions while making repairs are; Make sure all motors inside the shop are turned off. If you must run the motor while inside the shop, make sure the local exhaust is attached to the muffler and that the exhaust is vented to the outside, Follow procedures shown on MSDS’s when using, handling, dispensing and storing flammable liquids and chemicals, Use personal protective equipment (PPE). Refer to MSDS for recommended PPE. Make sure the PPE is not torn, ripped or defective, Make sure that the area where you use chemicals is well ventilated, Wash your hands before eating, Avoid skin contact with chemicals, Keep unused chemicals in their storage areas, Do not use compressed air to remove dust from clothes or from surfaces, Do not use chemicals from unlabeled containers, Do not eat, drink or smoke inside the shop just to mention afew.
Shops are required to have written plans and safety equipment to deal with the hazards that many employees are exposed to at work. For example, workers are supposed to use respirators when painting. Auto shops are required to provide safety equipment, ranging from goggles to noise reduction devices that are readily available and maintained in good condition. Some of the more common citations for body shops involve inadequate use or supply of respiratory safety equipment and insufficient numbers of fire extinguishers.
There are a variety of OSHA standards that govern the use of tools in auto shops. All tools must be maintained in good condition so that they may be safely used, and employees should be informed of the proper use of all tools and possible dangers. Some of the larger, more standardized tools, such as the car lift, must be inspected and serviced on a regular basis in order to be up to standard with OSHA. There are strict standards for the storage of tools. For example, all tools that can move must be removed from power, secured and locked out of the shop during cleaning in order to protect against movement. This applies to cars as well.
The layout of the shop itself also must be up to certain safety standards. The floor must be kept uncluttered and should provide easy access for walking. All spills should be cleaned up immediately, and tools and parts that are not being used should be put away. There are also broader regulations for the shop layout, such as standards for electrical wiring. One of the bigger hazards in auto shops is flammability, and OSHA is known for citing auto shops for not addressing this issue. Fire extinguishers and fire plans are expected, and auto shops are supposed to have a flameproof booth for doing things such as spray finishing and using flammable materials.
Too many people are injured while working in automotive workshops or carrying out off-site service calls. Manual handling injuries are the most common type of injury occurring in automotive workshops. The injuries occur from handling heavy or awkward objects, heavy lifting, and prolonged or sustained work in awkward postures. This injury trend occurs across all types of vehicle repair, maintenance or installation work, and on all types of vehicles. Given the nature of the work there is always the risk of severe injury or fatality. Some risks are obvious, such as vehicles falling from hoists or jacks, being hit by a passing vehicle while carrying out roadside work, or tires exploding during inflation. Other risks are less obvious such as the long-term effects of breathing asbestos fibers or fumes from solvents and automotive paints. While there may be risks associated with this type of work, these risks can be avoided. Fatal accidents are devastating and while the young and inexperienced are most at risk, experienced workers, and in some cases employers, have been the victims. In almost every instance a chain of events is put into place that ultimately leads to tragic consequences. Breaking this chain at an early stage will prevent this outcome. The chain can only be broken by following the standard and procedure put in place by OSHA. Hazard identification is a key to injury prevention, if you’re not safety conscious, you could end up unconscious.So Think Really Hard About  It!

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