The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics injury and illness report revealed that auto mechanics and technicians experienced 13,150 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses resulting in valuable time away from work. This occupation involves the use of dangerous machinery, chemicals and tools that put employees at a greater risk for a workplace injury.
Every workplace injury can create a domino effect in the efficiencies of your auto shop. If your best mechanic is injured and out of work for multiple months, you not only lose his/her level of productivity; you could incur higher medical costs, wage replacement, repairs to damaged machinery and increased workers’ compensation costs.
You can keep your workers safe by educating them on the most common types of auto shop accidents, providing them with regular training and requiring them to follow important safety procedures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides detailed standards information online that can help you keep employees safe and remain in compliance.
We will identify the five most common injuries and illnesses auto mechanics and technicians encounter, as well as how to mitigate them effectively in your shop:
1. Strains, sprains and tears
These are the most common injuries auto mechanics and technicians face on the job. Preforming repetitive motions while under the hood of a vehicle or lifting and lowering machinery and heavy tools often contribute to these types of injuries.
Encourage workers to take a few minutes each morning to do a few warm-up exercises to get their body moving for the day. You might consider implementing a Stretch & Flex Program to help reduce strains, sprains and tears by providing employees 10 minutes each morning to complete several low-impact exercises.
2. Eye injuries
Every day, about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a work-related eye injury that requires medical attention. Auto shop workers are particularly at risk for these types of injuries as they often work under cars and hoods where they are susceptible to falling debris and chemicals. The best way to prevent eye injuries is to ensure workers always utilize their safety goggles.
3. Chemical burns
Auto shop workers often handle hazardous and flammable liquids in their day to day work. Ensure these chemicals are properly labeled following Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. Labels are required to have a pictogram; hazard and precautionary statements; a signal word, like “danger”; the product name and the supplier identification. They must also include safety handling information and what to do in case of exposure.
Containers around the shop should be checked routinely to ensure lids fit tightly and there is no leakage or spoilage. Workers should always wear protective glasses and gloves when they handle chemicals.
4. Loss of limb or digit
Sometimes shop workers might need to operate power tools such as electric metal shears or angle grinders, increasing their risk of losing a limb or digit. Make it a priority to train employees on the appropriate operating instructions, keeping guards in place and wearing protective gear when operating power tools. Designate a specific area or cabinet for stowing these tools once a job is finished. Ensure that these tools are properly maintained and inspected on a regular basis.
5. Slips, trips and falls
Many day-to-day operations of an auto shop include the use of slippery and greasy liquids that can result in a slick floor surface, increasing the risk of accidents. Ensure your employees wear close-toed, anti-skid shoes.
Also make sure the floor stays clean and uncluttered, cleaning spills as soon as they occur. Utilize cones or signage warning workers of slick areas.
By educating your staff and implementing specialized safety procedures you are proactively reducing the likelihood of an employee injury in your shop.