What’s Wrong in This Photo?
Auto tech Dan Windsor smelled burning rubber as he replaced the oil plug beneath a brand-new pearl-white F-250 King Ranch. A flicker of light, as from a candle, danced near his feet on the cement floor. He stepped from under the truck, snapped off gloves, and glanced up at the engine compartment. The vehicle was overhead on a lift, but a thin tongue of orange flame was visible, reaching high and licking the underside of the raised hood. He thumbed the lift controller’s DOWN button, snatched a fire extinguisher from the wall, and emptied its contents into the engine compartment. Even with his quick reactions, the truck was a total loss, resulting in a $72,000 claim against his business.
As insurance agents that specialize in auto garages, claims such as Dan’s are more frequent than realized. Although a $72,000 claim may be significant, it could have been much worse. Dan could have been injured or the building could have been set ablaze.
Garages are unique since they are exposed to such a broad variety of risks: vehicle accidents, damage to property, client injury due to faulty workmanship, and employee injuries, just to name a few. Hazards can originate from chemical reactions, sparks, fumes, solvents, and propellants. According to Service Tech, a lift inspection company, over 15,000 lift-related accidents cause employee hospitalization or death each year. Note how that statistic is driven by only one of the many pieces of equipment mechanics utilize every day.
Culture of Safety
Foster and Transfer
To prevent claims and reduce injuries, each garage must foster a strong safety culture. Regular training and awareness is then necessary to transfer that culture into a safety mindset adopted by each employee. This proactive approach takes time, but will help prevent accidents, injuries, and even save the business money on insurance premiums by reducing claims.
Safety must be proactive. Never wait to make changes after an accident, but consider what mishaps may occur now, and take measures to prevent them.
Keep it Clean and Organized
Maintaining a clean and organized environment sets a consistent safety tone. It not only decreases the likelihood of accidents, but also boosts employee morale, increases work quality, and bolsters customer confidence. When a garage’s workplace is in order, operations flow in a predictable fashion, decreasing accidents. Employees may complain about cleaning up their workspace at the end of each day, but a neat environment increases pride and job performance. A clean, organized shop also creates the perception of quality in the mind of the consumer. It isn’t easy, but it is profitable.
Clothing and personal protective equipment play a critical safety role. Do not allow loose clothing or bulky gloves. The fingers and forearms are particularly vulnerable areas. Items caught in spinning belts or driveshafts can quickly lead to amputations. Consider requiring the use of arm chaps, not only to prevent burns and abrasions, but to keep loose shirt sleeves out of the way of moving parts. Loose hair is especially dangerous and should be worn up and out of the way – never tolerate long, dangly ponytails. Requiring eye protection is an inexpensive precaution and keeps dirt, metal chips, acid, and refrigerant out of employees’ eyes. Hearing protection is important if working near loud machinery. Remember that noise often causes damage latently, and permanently. Provide your mechanics breathing protection for working on brakes or with solvents. All that black dust is caked full of metal micro particles and can damage respiratory health.
So, what’s wrong with the photo?
Although not a critical safety breach when performing a task as benign as reinstalling a mass air flow sensor, wedding rings should never be worn in a shop. This mechanic is only utilizing a ratchet and torx driver now, but the next job may require power tools. Plus, rings are notorious for getting snagged on just about anything. Finger amputations don’t have to come from moving parts!
Bankers Insurance specializes in insuring auto repair garages and can provide safety manuals, as well as employee manuals for auto repair, auto body, and auto dealerships. Our risk management services can help you discover and address common safety hazards. Let us help your organization create a strong safety culture and accident-prevention mindset, which encourages a strong work ethic, deepens client experience, and increases profitability. Check out our garage insurance page for more information or to obtain an insurance quote for your shop.
Garage Insurance Risk Manager