Mechanics work with heavy equipment and caustic chemicals, they face a number of safety hazards every time they go to work. Every mechanic shop should have an accident prevention program that combines employee training with regular site inspection to ensure immediate repair of any safety hazards. Shop owners should also train mechanics on how to avoid electrocution, slips and falls, chemical burns, back injuries, and other types of accidents. Implementing a safety program may cost some money up front, but preventing workplace accidents can save an employer millions of dollars in workers’ compensation costs and legal fees. These tips can improve the safety of auto mechanics and help them avoid accidents.
- Automobile Mechanic Hazard Datasheet: This fact sheet from the International Labor Organization details the safety hazards faced by auto mechanics in the workplace.
- A Guide to Automotive Workshop Safety (PDF): This detailed guide offers safety tips to help mechanics avoid workplace injuries.
Oil changes, transmission fluid changes, and other vehicle maintenance procedures involve working with slippery fluids that can coat the garage floor and increase the risk of accidents. Mechanics should clean up spills immediately, as slick spots increase the risk for slip-and-fall injuries. Leaving chemicals on the floor also increases the risk of chemical inhalation, which can cause respiratory irritation and other problems. Auto shop workers should also take care in putting away auto parts and repair tools, as leaving them on the floor increases the risk that someone will trip and fall. Anyone who works in a garage should wear boots with non-slip soles. These boots will prevent slip-and-fall accidents and provide protection in the event that something falls on the feet.
- Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls: The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety explains how to avoid slip-and-fall accidents in the workplace.
- Foot Safety: This resource explains how to select a safety boot for the workplace. The article discusses the use of steel-toed boots and other types of safety footwear.
In addition to their work with caustic chemicals, mechanics also have to worry about exposure to hot engines and injuries from sharp equipment. Auto shop workers should always wear gloves to prevent chemical burns, chemical irritation, heat burns, cuts, and other types of injuries. These gloves should be left in the workplace at the end of each shift so that dangerous chemicals are not transferred from the garage to the home.
- Codes of Safe Practices – Mechanics (PDF): This resource explains how to use personal protective equipment to prevent eye injuries, burns and other types of injuries.
- Glove Selection Guidance: Imperial College London explains the benefits of wearing gloves in the workplace and offers advice for selecting the right gloves for various hazards.
Mechanics have an increased risk of eye injury because of the work they do with chemicals and small auto parts. Auto shop workers should always wear eye safety equipment when working with chemicals, welding, grinding, or performing any work that poses a risk of injury. Safety goggles should surround the eyes completely to prevent debris or liquids from entering the eye.
- Eye Protection in the Workplace: This article from the U.S. Department of Labor explains the most common causes of eye injuries in the workplace and discusses the prevention of these injuries.
- Eye Safety Checklist: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a checklist for preventing eye injuries in the workplace.
Working with the electrical components of a vehicle increases the risk for electrocution. Auto shop workers are also at risk of electrocution because of the electrical tools they use to repair cars and trucks as well as the vehicle’s own battery. Employers should train mechanics and other auto shop workers in how to prevent electrocution when working with electrical components. It is important that mechanics cut off the power supply to any electrical component while it is being repaired or maintained.
- Hazards Associated with Exposure to Low Voltages (PDF): This technical resource explains how electrical currents affect the human body and discusses some of the worldwide standards in place for preventing electrocution.
- Repair Shop Safety Rules (PDF): This resource explains the steps auto mechanics should take to maintain their safety. It specifically addresses electrical hazards and discusses ways to minimize the risks associated with these hazards.
- Energy Control Procedures (PDF): This resource explains the procedures workers should follow when performing maintenance on electrical equipment.
Solvents, paints, vehicle fluids, and other chemicals can cause poisoning if ingested or if they come into contact with the skin for a long period of time. Mechanics should avoid eating and drinking in their work areas, as chemicals can contaminate foods and beverages. All chemicals should be labeled so that there is no question as to what each fluid container holds. Mechanic shops should have material safety data sheets where they can be quickly and easily found, as the information on these sheets can help poison control workers determine the best way to treat a chemical poisoning victim.
- Preventing Exposure to Hazardous Substances (PDF): This resource explains how to prevent contact with hazardous substances in the workplace.
Mechanics work with vehicle lifts on a regular basis and have to lift heavy auto parts and other heavy items. Using proper lifting techniques is extremely important, as lifting properly can prevent back injuries and other types of accidents. Workers should bend their knees while lifting and use the power of their legs to pick up objects. A mechanic should never bend over and lift with the back, as this can cause muscle strains and other injuries. Workers should use caution when working with vehicle lifts, as using them improperly can cause crush injuries and even deaths.
- Back Safety & Lifting Technique: Virginia Commonwealth University explains how to lift properly to prevent back injuries.
- Material Handling Program (PDF): The University of Texas at Austin provides tips for safe manual and mechanical lifting.
- Forklift Safety (PDF): Mechanics sometimes need to use forklifts to move heavy parts. This resource from the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration explains how to use this equipment safely.
Training and Certification
Proper training is one of the best ways to prevent accidents and injuries in auto shops. Every shop should have a formal safety training program that every employee must complete. The safety program should include information on wearing personal protective equipment, identifying workplace safety hazards, reducing the risk of electrocution, working with hazardous chemicals, and procedures for reporting safety hazards to management. Employers should also encourage employee participation in workplace safety committees. Safety committee members should regularly inspect work areas and identify any potential hazards. Once identified, hazards should be removed or repaired immediately.
Certification is also another important part of keeping the workplace safe for everyone. Employers should consider offering employees increased pay if they successfully complete a relevant certification program. In addition to mechanic certification, auto shop workers can take certification courses in working with hazardous materials, using forklifts, and using heavy equipment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also offers a voluntary training course that teaches participants how to identify and fix workplace hazards.
- Managing Worker Health and Safety (PDF): The United States Environmental Protection Agency details how an auto refinishing shop improved worker safety. This resource addresses the dangers of chemical exposure and discusses the importance of safety training and use of personal protective equipment.
- Checklist for Auto Repair Shops (PDF): This checklist is designed to help auto shop workers and supervisors minimize the safety risks of this type of work.
- Health and Safety Training (PDF): This resource details how to know what type of safety training to provide employees and discusses why safety training is so important.
- Safety Training for Employees (PDF): This newsletter article explains why employers need to train their employees about safety in the workplace.
- Guide to Developing Your Workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Program: The California Department of Industrial Relations offers a guide on starting a workplace illness and injury prevention program.
Therefore, repair shop owners and their staff should consider proper safety precautions to avoid the risk of any injury.
You might never be able to make your workplace completely danger-free, but by following proper safety guidelines, the risk of accidents can be reduced significantly. Listed below are some points that guide to workplace safety for auto mechanics.
1. Personal Care
Employee attire should consist of full clothes to avoid cuts and scrapes on the arms and legs. Employees should never wear loose or torn clothes that could get caught in a machine.
They must always avoid wearing dangling jewelry and tie back long hair. Most workers and auto body technicians wear coveralls or fitted attire on the job.
To prevent the customers from wearing unsuitable clothing, it is recommended to obtain proper uniforms for the mechanics while working.
2. Use of Protective Equipment
Protective equipment is used to protect the employees from any physical harm that may occur at the workplace. Mechanics must worry about their exposure to harmful chemicals, in addition, when dealing with hot engines, it is very important to use Gloves.
Other equipments like Goggles are useful for eye-protection to prevent particulates or any other chemicals from entering the eye.
Equipment like safety glasses, goggles, chemical-resistant gloves, ear protection, and kneepads so that they may use the equipment when doing certain types of repairs, must be available to the employees by shop owners.
3. Clean Work Areas
Certain repairs, oil changes, the transmission of fluids involve the use of slippery fluids. Spilling of these fluids may coat the floor surface, which may increase the risk of accidents. These fluids and chemicals on the floor must never be left unattended.
They can increase the chance of slip-and-fall accidents. That’s why auto shop workers use nonslip shoes to prevent slipping.
Moreover, when the chemicals are left on the floor, there may be a risk of chemical inhalation due to which respiratory problems can be caused. This indicates that the work areas should be clean and organized. The tools must be placed in cabinets to avoid clutter in the walkways.
4. Electrical Safety
When doing an electric repair in a vehicle, there is a risk of getting an electric shock or further damaging the electric system of the vehicle. When doing electric work, these tips must be remembered:
- Avoid using any electrical equipment with damaged cords.
- Make sure to cut off the power supply to any electrical equipment being repaired.
- To avoid electric shock, keep your work area dry and away from water.
- Disconnect the battery to verify the absence of the voltage in the vehicle.
- It is advisable to have a bright flashlight for the mechanic as it helps in better observation.
5. Chemical Safety
Vehicle fluids, paints, and chemicals can cause poisoning if they are ingested or they remain in contact with the skin for a longer time.
Due to this reason, all eating and drinking must be done away from the work area because these chemicals can contaminate the food and drinks. All the chemicals must be labeled properly so that every worker is sure what each container holds.
The employees should be educated about the effects of hazardous chemicals. Safety data sheets for all chemicals should be present.
Eye-contact with these chemicals should be avoided, and if contact occurs, there should be an eye-wash area in the case of an emergency.
6. Lifting of Heavy Equipment
Mechanics work with vehicle lifts daily and lift heavy machinery. Mechanics must never work under a vehicle unless it has not been properly supported.
One must always verify whether the vehicle is stable when raising it off the ground to access the underside. Mechanics must never go under an improperly supported vehicle since there is a chance of the vehicle to fall on the mechanic.
Mechanics must be taught proper lifting techniques. When lifting some load, use the power of legs to pick it up. Never bend over for lifting some equipment as it can cause muscle strains and injuries.
Therefore, caution must always be used when working with vehicle lifts, as any mistake would cause back injury or even death.
7. Mechanical Training
One of the best ways to avoid accidents is the proper training of the employees.
Every workplace must have a formal safety training program in which the employees should be given information regarding the use of protective equipment, preventing electric hazards, dealing with harmful chemicals, and managing emergencies.
Fact sheets on best practices
- Profit Through Prevention
This fact sheet is the first in a series highlighting the best environmental practices for automotive repair shops and fleet maintenance facilities. The step-by-step instructions can help you reduce waste, avoid regulatory problems, and save money.
- Aqueous Parts Cleaning
Using solvents creates unnecessary environmental, worker health, and fire liabilities for your shop. With this fact sheet, learn how to minimize costs and liabilities by switching from solvents to aqueous (water-based) solutions.
- Case Studies In Aqueous Parts Cleaning
Each of the shops featured in these case studies successfully switched from solvent to aqueous parts cleaning. These case studies prove that aqueous cleaners are capable of meeting or exceeding the many parts cleaning challenges encountered in a wide variety of automotive repair operations.
- Aqueous Brake Washers
Aqueous brake washers perform as effectively as traditional solvent washers, they are better for the environment, and they reduce hazardous waste management costs and liability.
- Antifreeze Recycling
Learn why it is important to recycle waste antifreeze and get started recycling your waste antifreeze.
- Refillable Spray Bottles
This fact sheet is designed to help automotive repair shop owners and fleet managers make informed decisions about implementing refillable spray bottles.
- Floor Cleanup
The methods and equipment presented in this fact sheet will help you reduce floor wash water volume and contamination.
- Oil Water Separators (OWSs)
This fact sheet discusses the basic operation of OWSs in handling vehicle and floor wash water, and techniques to improve OWS performance and reduce costs and liabilities.
Additional fact sheets for fleet maintenance
- Reusable Oil Filters
Reusable oil filters are an alternative to conventional oil filters and can last up to the life of a vehicle, eliminating the waste stream created by conventional disposable filters.
- Oil Life Extension
This fact sheet describes how a testing program can extend engine oil life and thus lower oil consumption, reduce used oil generation, and decrease operating costs with no risk to your vehicles.
Automotive repair and fleet maintenance pollution prevention case study
Auto repair shops must take safety seriously in order to stay in business. If they do not follow safety precautions when it comes to operating machinery or handling chemicals, it can lead to injuries, lost work time, and staff loss, as well as potential lawsuits or workers’ compensation claims. One important step in establishing a positive safety environment is to create a safety manual and train your employees on its policies.
WHAT DOES A SAFETY MANUAL INCLUDE?
To begin with, your shop’s safety manual should include instructions on what employees should do in case of a true emergency: a fire, an explosion, an earthquake, a flood, or a blizzard. It goes without saying that in addition to these instructions, employees should be regularly trained on what to do in case of emergency. All emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, goggles, and gloves, must be provided and maintained. Employees should also be trained to observe OSHA standards such as keeping exits clear and ensuring that their work areas are always properly ventilated.
In addition to major emergencies, your manual should contain instructions for what to do for other lesser emergencies like accidents, cuts, burns, or chemical spills. Because auto repair shops must use sharp tools, power tools, and chemicals to repair cars, your employees should be trained on how to do their work in ways that would minimize risk of accident or injury. Adding incentive programs for maintaining an accident-free workplace or rewarding employees who model your safety program are inexpensive ways to emphasize your shop’s commitment to safety.
ESSENTIAL SAFETY POLICIES
The following are policies that should be included in any auto repair shop safety manual:
Do not smoke in or around the repair bays or garages. The chemicals that are stored or are in use there are extremely flammable, and smoking is an unacceptable risk. If your company has a no smoking policy, this will, of course, be covered under that. Three or four decades ago, it might have been impossible to enforce this kind of policy, but smoking has been essentially pushed from most workplaces today.
Keep workspaces clean and organized. Put away tools when they are not in use.
Make sure all exits are clear and free of clutter.
Do not wear clothing that is loose, torn, or that could catch on equipment and endanger you. (A good dress code policy makes it easy for all employees to know what to wear.)
Wear protective gear. This includes, but may not be limited to goggles, gloves, and ear protection.
Keep safety equipment like fire extinguishers accessible and well maintained.
When working on a vehicle, remove the keys from the ignition switch. Also: disconnect the car’s battery when working on an electrical system or with wiring. A car with a key in the ignition switch can still draw current from the battery, so avoid unplugging fuses or working on wiring until you have made sure that no current can pass through the system and shock you or cause electrical damage to the vehicle.
Check the temperature of the car before working on the engine, manifold, exhaust system or the radiator as they can all cause burns when they are hot. Do not open the radiator until the car has had a chance to fully cool down.
Keep your hands, tools, and other objects away from the engine while it is running so that nothing gets caught on any moving part within.
Double check that any vehicle you are working on is fully supported before working underneath it.
Read the labels on any chemicals used in the auto shop. Workers should be aware of any hazardous chemicals used or stored in the auto shop. All chemicals should be clearly labeled and carefully stored according to the proper guidelines.
These are only the most obvious of safety tips. OSHA has extensive guidelines about all facets of safety for auto repair shops that managers must be aware of and follow to the letter or face fines or other action. An employee safety manual cannot contain all of that information, however. It’s too overwhelming. When creating your safety manual, it’s a good idea to seek input from your staff. They are on the frontlines of the work and may have good ideas about steps to take to avoid accidents. They also will have ideas about how to go about familiarizing themselves with the information. They will train the workers whose job it will be to maintain the safety culture you establish in your shop.
Does your auto repair shop have a safety manual? What further safety tips does it include?