NIOSH promotes safety in auto repair industry
More than 1.3 million U.S. workers are employed in the automotive repair and maintenance services. Because of the serious health risks these workers face, federal agencies have developed safety goals for the industry.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has convened a number of partners through the National Occupational Research Agenda, a program that promotes research and improves workplace practices. The partnerships developed the National Services Agenda, which established goals for protecting workers in a variety of service industries, according to a new NIOSH publication.
Most of the auto repair and maintenance firms are small businesses that employ fewer than 20 people. Among the health and safety issues they face are:
- Injuries involving sprains and strains, cuts and lacerations, and bruises and contusions.
- Events such as contact with objects or equipment, slips, trips, and falls, and overexertion.
- Injury sources such as floor and ground surfaces, parts and materials, hand tools, and vehicles.
- Fatalities from contact with objects or equipment, especially struck by falling objects, transportation events, and fires and explosions.
- Workplace violence and elevated homicide and suicide risks.
- Exposures to chemicals, biological materials, vehicle exhaust, and asbestos.
The NORA Services Sector Council developed strategic goals for the industry and is encouraging partnerships to achieve the goals to reduce injuries, illnesses, and deaths. The goals seek to promote the development of safety and health programs, evaluate potential exposures to hazardous materials, and develop and evaluate training materials that assist employers and workers to recognize and control hazardous materials.
NIOSH points out that small businesses without safety and health professionals on staff can still take inexpensive steps to reduce injuries and illnesses in auto repair and maintenance facilities. The agency identified several resources. One of them, the Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service, part of the occupational health branch of the California Department of Health Care Services, offers the following tips:
- Identify chemical, fire, noise, safety, and environmental hazards, and train workers on them and the methods to control them.
- Switch to water-based cleaners and other safer products when possible.
- Inspect tools and other equipment regularly, and assure they are in good working condition.
- Encourage early reporting of hazards and symptoms.
- Keep dust wet at all times, and do not clean with compressed air when repairing brakes and clutches to protect against cancer and lung disease from asbestos.
- Wear protective gloves, like nitrile, to prevent skin rash from solvents, oil, and grease and burns from acids and caustics.
- Adjust tongue guards and work rests on grinders and wear face shields to prevent eye injuries caused by metal fragments.
- Use spill prevention equipment, and clean up spills promptly to prevent slip and trip injuries.
- Use well-maintained auto lifts and American Society of Mechanical Engineers-approved jack stands when working under raised vehicles to prevent deaths and disabling bodily injuries.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
January 16, 2012
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