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Safety Guide for Automotive Workers

American Academy of Optometry Porter and Chester Institute Rice University Goverment of South Australia BLS

  1. Introduction

    Working on vehicles in automotive shops requires safety measures. Therefore, owners of such establishments need to ensure that proper safety precautions are in place for everyone's protection.

    Such measures protect workers and visitors from injuries. For example, accidents happen more frequently when someone slips on an oily floor. Others could fall off ladders with tools clutched tightly by slippery fingers. That is why it is essential to know how to safeguard yourself and your co-workers and even customers because accidents happen.

  2. Common Injuries in Automotive shops

    Auto mechanic work involves dangerous machinery, chemicals, and tools which put employees at a greater risk of accidents. If your best mechanic is out due to their workplace accident-related injuries, you not only lose their level of productivity but will also incur higher medical costs. Below are some of the injuries in automotive shops.

    1. Cuts and Burns

      If you're working in an automotive shop, chances are your job involves using tools and handling automobile parts. These are things that can be sharp or heavy enough to injure anyone if something goes wrong. A 2011 study published in Industrial Health found mechanics reporting cuts as the most common type of accident experienced in place of work. In addition, mechanics and other workers in the automotive industry are also injured due to falls or equipment tip-over, leading to severe cuts or burn accidents.

    2. Trauma

      Employees in automotive shops like mechanics are at risk of all sorts of injuries. For example, they need to lift heavy objects, leading to straining their muscles. In addition, they often work for hours with poor posture, which can lead to repetitive stress injury or cumulative trauma disorder such as muscle pulls, spinal and wrist injuries. Slips and trips could cause trauma even without falling, and they are common in the automotive workplace.

      According to the BSL, in 2005, heavy lifting accounted for more than 50% of all overexertion injuries. Using advanced tools and utilizing proper techniques while performing any physical task could prevent such injuries. Unfortunately, some of these musculoskeletal injuries cannot always be avoided despite your best efforts.

    3. Eye Injuries

      Eye injuries among auto mechanics are nothing new. However, studies have shown that most eye injuries occur with workers who aren't wearing safety equipment due to the unavailability of safety gear like goggles or inadequate training on how important they are to protect their eyes. As a result, every day in America alone, 1,000 people suffer from work-related eye injuries. In addition, the prevalence of workplace accidents involving an injured worker’s eye is widespread.

    4. Chemical Burns

      Mechanics and other technicians are faced with danger when they are overexposed to harmful chemicals and sharp tools. However, even with all the precautions in place, incidents sometimes still happen. Breathing in fumes or coming into contact are the two most common ways of exposure to harmful chemicals.

      Similarly, auto mechanics are also exposed to these dangerous substances when the engine parts start to wear off, and they contain these chemicals. For instance, toxic chemical additives could be present in the oil.

      Automotive gas is highly flammable, and if not handled properly, it could lead to severe burns if they come into contact with sparks, high temperatures of fire.

    5. Loss of Limb or Digit

      Working with power tools and equipment in an automotive workshop is dangerous. For example, the use of grinders, electric metal shears, etc., present the danger that you could lose a limb or a digit if not careful enough. Some of these injuries can be prevented by following practices to keep yourself safe while working.:

      • Make sure that all power cords are unplugged before moving any machine
      • Wear grounding straps when using grinders both on your body and around loose clothing items like sleeves;
      • Use only one hand at a time with electric shears, so you don't get caught by blades while cutting metal sheets, etc.; and finally
      • Never push heavy objects without assistance from another individual.
    6. Slips, Trips, and Falls

      The auto garage is one of the most dangerous places to work. The constant presence of fluids and cables on the floor creates a slippery surface, leading to accidents such as slips, trips, or falls. In addition, some chemicals may be stored next to regular foot traffic in areas where they should not be stored.

    7. Strains, Sprains, Tears

      Working with cars and auto machines is a dangerous job, mainly because of overexertion. Working in the automotive repair shop can cause injuries like over-exerting oneself by lifting heavy objects or being forced to repeat tasks without breaks. If left untreated, the strains could lead to severe injuries for those working on vehicles all day long. Therefore, it is advisable to implement safe practices that will help reduce stress-type strain exposures like improper lifting techniques.

  3. Workplace Accidents in Automotive Repair Workshops in Numbers

    According to BLS, between 2003 and 2005, 147 mechanics were killed on the job. These numbers translate to a fatality rate of 5.3 out of 100,000, higher than the rate of 4.0 per 100,000 in all other occupations combined.

    In 2005, non-fatal injuries stood at 15,680, which was almost the same as in 2004. However, mechanics were ranked 14th among all occupations in the number of injuries in 2005. In 2003, they ranked 13th. In 2005, the median number of days that mechanics were absent from the job due to injuries was five days, and it was less the 7, the median number of days for all other occupations.

    In Automotive, 34.9% of mechanics worked in the automotive repair and maintenance shops, 33.9% worked in the automotive dealers, and 8.8% worked in parts, accessories, and tire shops.

    In 2005, 47% of mechanics who suffered a nonfatal injury that led to days away from the job were in automobile dealers,17.8% were employed in automotive repair and maintenance shops, and 7.4% were in automotive parts and tire outlets. A small percentage of 4.2% were engaged in construction and manufacturing.

    Out of the 147 fatal accidents between 2003 and 2005, 72.1% were in automotive repair and maintenance. All were employed in the private industry. In addition, all the mechanics who were injured were men. On the other hand, most of the non-fatally injured mechanics in the same period (95%) were men.

  4. How To Prevent These Common Injuries

    Mechanics and employees in the automotive industry often conduct some of the most daunting tasks. These skilled tradesmen and women are tasked with some of the most challenging repairs that stretch them mentally, physically, and emotionally too.

    Their jobs come with a significant risk of injuries with the thousands of pounds of metal hanging above them with sharp tools around. In addition, the repetitive nature of the operations can potentially be a source of risks to injury. However, safety precautions can be put in place to prevent some foreseeable incidents before they happen. Thus, some injuries can be avoided by watching out and taking preventive measures. The following are some of the measures.

    1. In Electrical Hazard

      In the event of an electrical shock, time is crucial. The severity and effects depend on several factors such as whether or not you are wet (because water conducts electricity), how much current was passed through your body, what pathway it took throughout, and how long, but most importantly- you need to do something fast.

      To avoid any issues at hand, always make sure you have protection against these dangers.

      • Always ensure all tools are cleared away before you start any work near the source of power like the motors or generators because they pose an increased risk.
      • Children should be kept out of repair areas, especially when you're working.
      • Always make sure you maintain good housekeeping practices by keeping floors clean.
    2. Strain and Sprain

      Strains and sprains are some of the most common injuries in automotive repair shops. You can help prevent or minimize these painful accidents by ensuring you have good physical fitness, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking or drinking too much alcohol (as this will lead to weariness), practicing proper posture while at work, or keeping alert. Always have an adequate sleep and rest when needed. As for workplace safety measures that contribute to an increased risk of injury, always know how equipment is designed and do not overload them.

      Workers should be encouraged to take a few minutes in the morning for a warm-up exercise or a stretch and flex program as they will reduce sprains, tears, and strains.

    3. Proper Safety Gear

      Machines are a great way to automate tasks that would otherwise be very difficult for humans. However, even with the help of safety equipment, workers need to take care when operating machinery not to hurt themselves or others around them.

      Workers need to wear personal safety equipment (PPE). Some standard PPE includes closed-toe shoes, helmets, gloves, and many others. These safety gears are available in many different varieties, depending on what you're doing. For instance, full wrap goggles can prevent debris from reaching your eyes while operating machinery. Similarly, cut-resistant gloves are suitable for those working with sharp tools or pointed edges that could potentially cause injury.

    4. Machine Injuries

      Many ways can be used to reduce the risk of workplace injuries when using work equipment or handling tools—by taking adequate steps. Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the workplace for all employees. Therefore, they should take every action possible to protect their employees from injury.

      Some of the appropriate measures to reduce machine injuries include the following:

      • Risk assessment - Never invest in work equipment without first doing a thorough risk assessment. The process of assessing risks is crucial because knowing your liabilities can allow you to avoid accidents and injuries before they happen.
      • Getting rid of the hazards - The best way to avoid injury when on the job is to plan and work around hazardous equipment. If this cannot be done, other forms of protecting yourself from injury should be considered. 

  5. Safety Gear for Workers

    Safety is critical in any working environment, so it's essential to be aware of the risks and take appropriate measures to counter them. The safety risks you need to know about are those that your company faces as a whole and also hazards inside your shop.

    Employers’ risk management starts with identifying what areas may present danger for employees based on their job and whether they're operating heavy machinery like forklifts or using sharp tools. After identifying them, take steps against these types of exposures through training programs and equipment safeguards.

    1. Gloves

      To protect your hands and fingers from injuries, it is a good idea to purchase different gloves for different purposes. Gloves are used in many sectors, including construction work (to resist vibrations), manufacturing (for protection against cuts by sharp materials), cold weather environments, hot climates, or when near toxic substances. You can also choose between single-use gloves that offer limited durability but provide superior hygiene levels and reusable ones that may be washed with soap and water after use.

    2. Safety goggles

      The eye is one of the most complex yet fragile body organs. Every day, about 600 people around the world sustain eye injury due to their work; however, this could be prevented with safety glasses! For example, if you often come in contact with bright lights or infrared radiation, welding glasses or a shield will offer the required protection.

    3. Work overalls or a protective uniform

      Everting any accident in a workshop is critical. That's why you should always wear high-visibility gear. There are many dangerous substances that you might come in contact with when working in the automotive sector. Overalls can protect the wearer from hazardous materials like molten metal splashes, which can cause severe burns. There's also radiant heat from flames or welding arcs, solvents like acetone, acids such as hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid (which causes the skin to blister).

    4. Steel toe work boots with non-slip soles

      The workplace requires safety shoes and boots. Safety footwear will protect your feet against heavyweights if you are constantly on the go or have to lift an item with both frequently. These boots are designed to protect your feet on slippery, oily, or wet floors. They are the type of gear that will provide you the much-needed traction no matter the type of surface.

    5. Ear protection

      There are many hearing protection options available, including earplugs and muffs. However, a third option might be more fitting for some people- canal caps or what we also call hearing bands. This option provides the wearer with less sound reduction as it doesn't cover your ears entirely as an earplug does. It rests on the .top of your head instead to provide you with comfort.

    6. Head Protection

      A helmet is the ultimate protection for your head and can provide a buffer against injury. You have to wear it close enough that you don't bang into anything, but not so tight that you lose circulation. Look out for features like an adjustable interior harness or sweatbands- they will make wearing your helmet more comfortable.

    7. A back brace when lifting heavy parts:

      If you are constantly lifting heavy items, odds are, your back is in pain. Injuries most common due to heavy lifting may include muscle strains, chronic upper back pain, and ligament damage. Mechanics and technicians need to look into ergonomic tools or devices now to limit experiencing long-term severe health complications.

  6. Emergency Response for Workplace Accidents

    Employers should always prepare in advance for disaster. This includes developing an emergency response plan that trains all employees on how to deal with potential workplace injuries during a crisis.

    OSHA's emergency action plan is designed to protect workers from workplace emergencies. It requires employers to make an assessment of the worst-case emergencies probable at their facilities, such as fires and explosions. Once a potential disaster has been identified, it can be mitigated by employees following predetermined procedures for dealing with that particular situation - an example would be evacuating after hearing a fire alarm.

    A well-crafted emergency action plan can save your life. It should include the preferred method of reporting an emergency, evacuation policy and escape routes, contact information for outside agencies and personnel to be contacted during a crisis or disaster scenario inside the facility.

  7. Vehicle safety Guidelines in Auto Shop

    We all need to be safe. That's why auto shop owners and their employees have a responsibility of ensuring safety measures are implemented and followed at all times. All it takes is one mistake for an accident to happen and injure you, someone else working with you, or a customer who walks through those doors looking for help.

    Never smoke in a repair bay or garage. That just invites disaster because vehicles have highly flammable and combustible fluids that can quickly start a fire. You need to keep the working area clean and organized by picking up tools and using cabinets to keep walkways clear of clutter. To prevent employees from wearing unsuitable clothing, you must obtain customized uniforms through qualified uniform service companies.

    At all times, wear protective gear appropriate for the auto shop. For example, goggles and gloves should be worn when performing certain types of repairs where harmful chemicals may come into contact with your skin or eyes. Ear protection is needed to avoid hearing damage from loud noises during some jobs (i.e., changing a tire). In case of fire: an accessible extinguisher must exist in every area containing fuel-fired equipment and electrical wiring to combat any type of potential flame.

  8. Conclusion

    Automobile mechanics and technicians often suffer injuries due to their work environment, tools, lack of appropriate protection, and machinery. Frequently these exposures can lead to poor health or even death if not appropriately addressed.

    Cuts are the leading causes of injury among automobile repair workers, with improper postures and repetitive work and tool design seen playing a role.

References

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