A Resource Guide to Workplace Safety for Auto Mechanics

Because auto 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.

Floor Care

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.

Wearing Gloves

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.

Eye Protection

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.

Electrocution

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.

Chemical Poisoning

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.

Proper Lifting

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.


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