Vehicle repair mechanics face several risks during the course of the workday. Some of these risks are inherent to this industry, while others stem from being careless and flouting standard safety norms. Unfortunately, because of the type of materials and equipment used within a garage, many of the risks can result in serious injuries and even death.
Here we shall look at the common risks that vehicle repair mechanics face at work in a garage every day and what can be done to minimise or prevent potential accidents.
On a side-note, if you have received an injury working in a garage and it is due to somebody else’s carelessness or negligence, this page on garage mechanic injury claims explains what you can do to claim compensation.
Common Risks Garage Mechanics Face And Effective Preventive Measures
Slip, Trip, And Fall Injuries
Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common risks in a vehicle repair garage and most of these types of accidents happen because of a lack of organisation in the workplace.
Workers might trip over equipment or cables lying around on the floor that a colleague did not put back in place after completing the job. During the course of the workday, mechanics use several different types of viscous fluids such as brake oil, grease and cleaning oils. These fluids are slippery and any spill that’s not cleaned up promptly can result in slips and fall accidents.
The risk of slip, trip, and fall accidents can be minimised by:
- Keeping the garage organised at all times so that everything is put back in its place immediately after use;
- Mopping up all oil and other fluid spills immediately;
- Making sure the garage is well lit during work hours. Inadequate lighting may lead to accidents simply because workers cannot see the obstacle lying right in front of them.
From vehicle fuel to car paint, few other workplaces have so many flammable items stored in one place. While the combustible materials themselves cannot be removed from the garage, developing safe work habits can help reduce the incidence of burn injuries.
Safe work habits related to fire risks may include but are not limited to:
- Seal all containers with flammable liquids immediately after use;
- Store all combustible materials as far away as possible from any heat sources;
- Impose a strict No-Smoking policy;
- Keep more than one fire extinguisher handy and make sure every worker knows how to use it in an emergency.
Exposure To Toxic Fumes
Exhaust fumes emitted by vehicle engines contain multiple toxic substances that can cause several different medical conditions. These toxic fumes can reach dangerous concentrations very fast if the garage is not well ventilated.
While minor exposure can cause temporary skin and eye irritation, prolonged exposure and inhalation can injure the respiratory tract and lungs. In a worst-case scenario, extended repeated exposure can increase the risk of lung cancer.
Injuries due to toxic exposure can be minimised by:
- Making sure the garage is well ventilated;
- Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment such as long-sleeved clothes to avoid contact with your skin, safety eye goggles to protect your eyes, and a respiratory mask to avoid inhaling the toxic fumes.
In a garage, vehicles are routinely raised on jacks to enable mechanics to carry out a full inspection, maintenance and repairs of the undercarriage. A vehicle can easily roll or fall off the jack and injure the workers below if it is not positioned and locked into place before being hoisted. Also, jacks that are not properly maintained can give way under the weight of a vehicle, crushing the mechanic working under it. Considering the combined weight of the vehicle and the jack, injuries of this type can be life-changing and can even be fatal.
To avoid fatal crush injuries in the garage all jacks must be inspected, maintained, and okayed for use regularly. Making sure that a vehicle is securely locked in place before hoisting the jack is integral to preventing these types of accidents.
Hand-Arm Vibration Injuries
Vehicle mechanics use an assortment of hand-held power tools, from wrenches and grinders to air chisels and sanders. All of these work via vibration movements, which are transmitted to the operator’s arms, hands, and shoulders. Extensive or improper use of these vibration tools can cause permanent musculoskeletal, neurological, and vascular disorders.
While these tools are essential to perform several repair related tasks, the risk of vibration injuries can be reduced by using the proper tools for each task and taking regular breaks while working with these tools.
Repetitive Strain Injuries
Mechanics who perform the same actions for extended periods of time are at high risk for repetitive strain injuries. Because the symptoms of repetitive strain injury (RSI) are mild at first, many workers just ignore them, resulting in the symptoms becoming more severe over time. Advanced repetitive strain injuries can be debilitating and can seriously affect several areas of life, from sleep to the ability to perform everyday tasks.
Being aware of the risks of repetitive strain injury is the first step towards preventing the symptoms. Taking regular breaks from repetitive actions is equally important.
Manual Handling Injuries
Vehicle parts can literally weigh a ton. Garage workers often lift these heavy parts to transport them to and from the vehicle to the repair station, which can lead to typical manual handling injuries such as strained muscles and back injuries.
Mechanics who work in awkward positions for long periods of time while working on difficult-to-reach car parts are also at risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
Manual handling injuries can be avoided by using machines to do the job instead. If that is not possible, forming a buddy system where two workers share the load can significantly reduce the incidence of these types of injuries.
Repairing a vehicle can involve a lot of banging, scraping, and painting, all of which involve a whole lot of minute particles flying around. These can cause serious eye injuries and even blindness.
Wearing protective eye goggles is the single most effective way to prevent eye injuries in a vehicle repair garage.
When it comes to garage safety, employers and workers must work together to create a workplace that is safe for all.