Occupational hazards are a factor inherent within the auto industry. Mechanics and technicians both face physical risks each day. While the U.S. nonfatal occupational injury rate is just 2.7 per 100 workers, some industries face more significant risks than others.
Blue-collar workers, naturally, take on an elevated risk of suffering an occupational injury. With many auto shop workers operating on commission, an injury can severely curtail their incomes.
Let’s run through some of the most common occupational hazards workers face in auto shops.
Strains, Sprains, and Tears
The most common injuries of all are strains, sprains, and tears. The risk comes from the mechanics of the repetitive motion technicians perform each day.
Regularly working under the hood of a vehicle, sliding underneath a car, or lifting heavy tools can increase the risk of these injuries in time. They are the most common injuries in the U.S., with an estimated 25,000 Americans spraining an ankle every day.
So, what’s the solution?
An increasing number of auto shops are implementing Stretch & Flex programs. The idea behind these programs is to encourage workers to take a few minutes every day to warm their bodies up with a few simple exercises. Incorporating several low-impact exercises into the day for around 10 minutes can better prepare the body to deal with the physical demands of the industry.
You should also consider giving your employees the education and tools necessary to limit the chances of sustaining an injury, such as:
- Encouraging employees to lift with their knees rather than their backs
- Telling employees to keep loads close to their bodies while lifting
- Making it mandatory to use a forklift or dolly when lifting items over 50 pounds
Employers should also consider bringing in short breaks throughout the day for employees to rest and re-stretch their bodies. Changing up employees to reduce exposure to repetitive strain injuries can further mitigate risk.
Did you know that 2,000 U.S. workers will experience some form of eye injury at work each day that requires medical attention?
Auto shop workers are at greater risk of these injuries because they spend significant amounts of time underneath vehicles and hoods. Both chemicals and falling debris can lead to eye injuries, making this the second most common injury in the industry.
The best way to prevent eye injuries is to make safety goggles mandatory on the shop floor. Take the time to get feedback from your employees on different glasses models.
Some safety glasses can be uncomfortable to wear for more extended periods, so take the time to invest in glasses that offer total protection and better comfort. You may also want to consider fog-resistant glasses for employees who wear prescription eyewear.
Your employees will handle hazardous and flammable liquids every day. The Occupational Safety & Hazard Administration (OSHA) has clear guidelines for labeling chemicals.
All labels must contain a pictogram, signal words, product names, and supplier identification. Instructions on each container must include directions for use and what should be done in the event of exposure.
Auto shops are obligated to check containers for leakage and that the lids fit tightly. Workers must be provided with protective eyewear and gloves when handling chemicals.
Chemical burns are among the most severe injuries sustained at work. You need to protect your workers with a comprehensive auto repair shop insurance policy. Opt for one that provides more than the minimum protection to ensure the safety of your employees and the future of your business.
Loss of Digits/Limbs
The loss of a digit or limb is a genuine risk within the auto repair business. Due to the presence of power tools, auto shop workers risk losing a digit or a limb when they pick up an angle grinder or a pair of electric metal shears due to the presence of power tools.
Although workplace amputation accounts for just 0.5% of workplace injuries that resulted in days away from work, these injuries can cause a permanent loss of income and disability.
Employers must ensure that all their workers are appropriately trained to handle power tools safely. Protective guards and protective gear must be in place when operating such tools, with violations punished accordingly.
All power tools should have a designated area of the shop where they will be stored. Make a point of carrying out regular inspections to ensure your tools have been properly maintained.
While many injuries are caused by simple human error, there are many cases where workers are needlessly injured because of defects in older power tools.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
The auto shop can be a dangerous place. Oil and brake fluid are just two greasy, slippery substances that could lead to an accident. Slick floor surfaces are one of the biggest dangers found within the average auto shop business.
Your employees should be wearing not just close-toed boots but anti-skid shoes. The floor should remain clear and clean. Make sure someone goes over the floor to remove any obstructions or clear up any spilled fluids between every job.
Put down cones and clear warning signage for those bigger messes to warn your employees to take extra care in a particular area.
If you happen to be using electrical cords, or hoses, these should be coiled and rolled up when in use. Never leave anything lying on the floor. It only takes a few seconds for an innocent mistake to turn into a serious injury.
Car mechanics and engineers face danger every time they go to work. A proper health and safety program is essential to preserving your workforce and ensuring that your employees can continue to earn a living.
A single injury could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, healthcare, and legal costs as a business owner. Ensuring you’re adequately insured and protected if an accident occurs is crucial.
What systems do you have in place to ensure that your auto shop is a safe place to work?