Auto repair shops must take safety seriously in order to stay in business. If they do not follow safety precautions when it comes to operating machinery or handling chemicals, it can lead to injuries, lost work time, and staff loss, as well as potential lawsuits or workers’ compensation claims. One important step in establishing a positive safety environment is to create a safety manual and train your employees on its policies.
What Does a Safety Manual Include?
To begin with, your shop’s safety manual should include instructions on what employees should do in case of a true emergency: a fire, an explosion, an earthquake, a flood, or a blizzard. It goes without saying that in addition to these instructions, employees should be regularly trained on what to do in case of emergency. All emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, goggles, and gloves, must be provided and maintained. Employees should also be trained to observe OSHA standards such as keeping exits clear and ensuring that their work areas are always properly ventilated.
In addition to major emergencies, your manual should contain instructions for what to do for other lesser emergencies like accidents, cuts, burns, or chemical spills. Because auto repair shops must use sharp tools, power tools, and chemicals to repair cars, your employees should be trained on how to do their work in ways that would minimize risk of accident or injury. Adding incentive programs for maintaining an accident-free workplace or rewarding employees who model your safety program are inexpensive ways to emphasize your shop’s commitment to safety.
Essential Safety Policies
The following are policies that should be included in any auto repair shop safety manual:
Do not smoke in or around the repair bays or garages. The chemicals that are stored or are in use there are extremely flammable, and smoking is an unacceptable risk. If your company has a no smoking policy, this will, of course, be covered under that. Three or four decades ago, it might have been impossible to enforce this kind of policy, but smoking has been essentially pushed from most workplaces today.
Keep workspaces clean and organized. Put away tools when they are not in use.
Make sure all exits are clear and free of clutter.
Do not wear clothing that is loose, torn, or that could catch on equipment and endanger you. (A good dress code policy makes it easy for all employees to know what to wear.)
Wear protective gear. This includes, but may not be limited to goggles, gloves, and ear protection.
Keep safety equipment like fire extinguishers accessible and well maintained.
When working on a vehicle, remove the keys from the ignition switch. Also: disconnect the car’s battery when working on an electrical system or with wiring. A car with a key in the ignition switch can still draw current from the battery, so avoid unplugging fuses or working on wiring until you have made sure that no current can pass through the system and shock you or cause electrical damage to the vehicle.
Check the temperature of the car before working on the engine, manifold, exhaust system or the radiator as they can all cause burns when they are hot. Do not open the radiator until the car has had a chance to fully cool down.
Keep your hands, tools, and other objects away from the engine while it is running so that nothing gets caught on any moving part within.
Double check that any vehicle you are working on is fully supported before working underneath it.
Read the labels on any chemicals used in the auto shop. Workers should be aware of any hazardous chemicals used or stored in the auto shop. All chemicals should be clearly labeled and carefully stored according to the proper guidelines.
These are only the most obvious of safety tips. OSHA has extensive guidelines about all facets of safety for auto repair shops that managers must be aware of and follow to the letter or face fines or other action. An employee safety manual cannot contain all of that information, however. It’s too overwhelming. When creating your safety manual, it’s a good idea to seek input from your staff. They are on the frontlines of the work and may have good ideas about steps to take to avoid accidents. They also will have ideas about how to go about familiarizing themselves with the information. They will train the workers whose job it will be to maintain the safety culture you establish in your shop.
Does your auto repair shop have a safety manual? What further safety tips does it include? Please share them in the comments below or in our forums.