Although most industries have some type of safety hazards that workers are faced with, the automotive repair industry has more risks than average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “mechanics are more likely than the average worker to be injured or killed on the job, as evidenced by higher rates of fatalities and injuries and illnesses. In 2005, mechanics ranked 14th in terms of the number of injuries and illnesses with 15,680 nonfatal injuries and 147 deaths.” As an employer, it’s your responsibility to take the proper precautions to prevent injuries and keep your workers safe. Here are some ways to accomplish this.
There are several types of chemicals that auto body shop employees are in contact on a regular basis that can cause health complications. Polyurethane-based coatings, linings and paints can lead to respiratory problems and lung cancer. Contact with certain solvents can cause skin and eye irritation. In worst case scenarios, overexposure can even lead to liver damage and kidney disease. That’s why it’s critical to keep control of chemical use and materials correctly.
One of the most common types of injury in this workplace setting involves cuts and lacerations to the fingers and hands. Without taking the proper precaution, glass and jagged edges on sheet metal can put workers in jeopardy. Another problem that’s frequently encountered is back strain, which typically comes from lifting heavy or awkward equipment. Also, there is always the threat of fire and explosions when dealing with paint products and oxygen cylinders.
Employees should always wear protective gear like goggles for spray painting, and using a respirator is ideal with extremely toxic chemicals. Ensuring adequate ventilation in your auto body shop should minimize the buildup of dangerous fumes. Workers should also be educated on the right way to handle and mix materials, and instructions should be read when handling unfamiliar materials.
Protective gloves need to be worn when handling glass, sheet metal and other sharp items. Dull blades on knives increase the chance for injury because workers have to use added force, so keeping blades sharp is important. Also, team members should be taught to always cut away and not toward themselves.
When moving large objects, jacks and lifting aids should always be utilized whenever possible. Workers should avoid lifting heavy objects by themselves and get the help of other team members. It’s also important to use the proper lifting techniques, which can be found on this guide from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
In terms of fire safety, there should never be any smoking in and around workstations. Spark producing tools like welding and grinding equipment should never be used in the same vicinity as paint. Also, paint spray booths need to be properly maintained.
Bureau of Workers Compensation
Due to the inherent risks of this industry, it’s important to protect yourself and your employees with workers compensation insurance. In the event that one of your employees is injured, they will receive the proper medical care and rehabilitation. At the same time, you will be financially protected in case of a claim. Being proactive and not waiting until an injury actually happens can help avoid any major disasters and setbacks.
With so many potential hazards, it’s important to take safety concerns seriously when running an auto body shop. Fortunately, educating yourself and your employees should keep operations relatively safe and prevent unnecessary accidents. This resource from OSHA will provide you with further information on safety and meeting OSHA standards.