An effective safety program is crucial to a collision repair shop. A safe work environment prevents incidents which cause injury and business interruption. When implemented properly, you can also achieve productivity gains and reduce costs.
Let's take a look at the most common injuries and how they can be prevented.
Eye injuries are the most frequent type of injury in a collision repair shop. This happens mostly when particles impact unprotected eyes while using grinders and sanders to prep vehicles. To prevent eye injuries, develop a policy about eye protection use in your shop. Work with your employees to find eye protection that works for them. If you allow them to pick out their own protective eyewear, they will be more likely to use it.
Finger cuts are the second most common type of injury. This happens most often while using blades and knives while prepping a vehicle for painting. To reduce this type of injury, offer protective gloves. Many work gloves will help protect fingers from sheet metal, glass and other sharp objects. Always cut away from your body, rather than toward yourself. Also, keep your blades and knives sharp to avoid extra force from being needed.
Back and musculoskeletal injuries are the most costly injuries because of the time loss associated. These usually result from lifting heavy objects and while disassembling and prepping vehicles in awkward positions. Consider storing heavy objects between knee and shoulder level. Use jacks and lifting aids for lifting and holding heavy parts for installation. Use rolling work stands to avoid having to bend over and pick up tools and provide pads for fenders and body so the worker can lean against the vehicle while working on the middle of the vehicle.
Respiratory (lung) diseases are common among collision repairers (like work-related asthma) due to exposure to polyurethane-based coatings, linings and paint. No exposed skin should come into contact with catalysts, hardeners, or mixed coating and paint products, therefore extended cuff nitrile gloves, chemical resistant shoot suits, headsocks and other coverings should be provided to your employees. Clean up catalyst and hardener spills promptly and wash any exposed skin thoroughly. Supply an air respirator with a properly maintained compressor to deliver sufficient uncontaminated air. Read the MSDs for your products to find out if they contain isocyanates and other hazardous chemicals - avoid these where possible. Encourage workers to see their doctor immediately if they have symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or coughing. These could be an indication of asthma which if diagnosed early and treated properly, can improve.
Here are some links to additional materials on this topic:
- OSHA - Autobody Repair and Refinishing Hazards and Solutions
- WA Department of Labor and Industries 'Preventing Injury and Illness in Autobody Shops'
- ABRN's 'Targeting Safety' article