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Make Shop Safety a Top Priority

Shop safety is one of those topics that must be reviewed on a regular basis. It is also as enjoyable to discuss as sitting down to buy life insurance. I just hope my column reminds everyone to stop and take note of this important topic today.

All of us must know the safety precautions and procedures that I certainly hope every shop has in writing for all employees. ASP’s massive circulation of 150,000 goes to independent repair facilities of all shapes and sizes, not to mention fleet maintenance departments and car dealerships. I realize some of you have very sophisticated safety programs in place, but I’m betting others do not.

If you do not have a current policy in place, I’d suggest you adopt one. There are many resources available to you.

First, make sure your shop is compliant at all levels, ranging from local all the way to federal safety standards. Talk with your insurance agent, equipment and parts suppliers, association executives and, yes, even the appropriate government agencies to put together a safety program to protect you and all your employees.

In the meantime, you need to constantly be aware of potential hazards that you encounter on a daily basis. It only takes one mishap to result in a serious eye, skin, finger, back or foot injury which could have easily been avoided if the issue of safety was taken more seriously.

Here are a few common sense areas:

  • Wear eye protection. You only have two eyes, and they aren’t replaceable. Even the cheapest pair of safety glasses is better than none. Safety glasses or goggles tend to take a beating since they’re routinely tossed around and are either lost, scratched or broken. Keep a supply of safety glasses in one dedicated location, available to everyone in the shop. When you start to run low, order more.
  • Wear safety-compliant shoes or boots that provide good traction on dry, wet and oily surfaces. We’re commonly dealing with heavy items such as cylinder heads, large impact guns, transmissions, breaker bars, etc., so your footwear needs sturdy steel toe protection. The boots or shoes should also provide good arch support to withstand long days on your feet. Poor support can easily translate into not only foot pain, but leg, knee and lower back issues as well. Preferably, shoes should be made of leather. Shoes that feature cloth uppers can allow fluids, such as flammable materials, to soak into the shoe.

  • Fire extinguishers are sometimes viewed as necessary evils and as a result are ignored. Do this at your own peril. For those of you in communities where the fire department regularly inspects your extinguishers, you’re probably covered. For the rest of you, it would make sense to have the local fire inspector come out and go through the shop with you. Not only will you know what type of fire extinguishers to have, but the inspector will also point out any other potential hazards you may not know even exist. And before any of you write to me and talk about a “nanny state,” stop and think about how you would feel if your facility would burn and someone would be injured — or worse.
  • Keep a supply of first aid materials in a location that’s accessible to everyone in the shop, and make sure everyone knows where they’re stored.
  • Consider installing a panic button that activates a horn or siren, in a location that’s easily accessible. In an emergency, sounding that alarm will alert everyone that someone is in trouble.
  • Make a point to have your vehicle lifts inspected at least once per year, or more often if the lift manufacturer recommends it. Just because a lift worked fine yesterday doesn’t mean that it will work today or tomorrow. It’s obvious that a failed lift can easily result in both serious vehicle damage as well as fatal injury to anyone under or near the lift. Schedule a regular visit for a certified lift service technician to inspect and service every lift in the shop.
  • What you can’t see can hurt you. The shop area should be well lit to eliminate any dark areas. Don’t wait to replace burned out ceiling light bulbs. If your budget allows, consider switching to the new generation of LED lighting that both reduces electrical consumption and provides brighter illumination. Some energy companies offer incentives for going to more efficient lighting.
  • Keep the floor clean. The shop floor should be cleaned at the end of every day to remove dirt, rust scale, road salt and debris that falls off of customer vehicles and to remove any spilled fluids that pose a danger in terms of slipping and falling.
  • We all use sharp cutting instruments such as knives, box cutters or razor blades to open a box, trim a piece of weather-strip, etc. Rather than randomly tossing cutters in your tool chest, it’s a good idea to dedicate one spot (drawer or box) to store all things with sharp edges (especially razor blades). If razors are haphazardly stored in a drawer along with screwdrivers, pliers, etc., it’s too easy to accidentally slice your fingers when reaching in to retrieve another tool.
  • Consider having everyone in the shop trained in CPR. Training is commonly available, usually free of charge, at many local fire stations. Seriously consider taking advantage of this. In the case of an emergency, it’s better to be able to act quickly rather than standing idly by, waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

This may sound like your mom reminding you to wear a jacket in cold weather, but paying attention to safety issues in the shop can avoid injuries and can make your work day a bit more pleasant in the process.    ■

Read what our sister publication Modern Tire Dealer had to say about Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations by clicking here.

Read more of Mike Mavrigian's Straight Talk columns by clicking:

Rust Never Sleeps

Doing the Right Thing

Professionalism Trumps Stupid

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