An automotive workshop has the potential to be a hazardous environment if the right precautions are not taken. Here, Lauren O’Connor from tool and garage equipment specialist Zoro, shares her top tips to ensure your workforce stay safe on the job.

The automotive repair industry can be a fast-moving and technical environment to work in, with most jobs requiring complex skills and specialist equipment. And, it can also be quite a risky sector, with a non-fatal injury rate higher than most manufacturing jobs and a fatal injury rate approaching that of the construction industry (HSE figures).

Because of this, it’s incredibly important that you take the time to ensure your automotive workshop is as safe as possible for your employees. To help you out, I’ve put together a few tips to get you on the road to better health and safety practices. Read on to find out more.

Know what your responsibilities are as an employer

Like all industrial work environments, your automotive workshop will be subject to various health and safety laws to ensure the safety of yourself and your employees. You need to make sure that you know which regulations affect your business, as well as the responsibilities that they place on you as an employer.

For instance, all automotive repair workshops are required to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which covers more general issues around workplace safety. There’s also the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), which regulates the use of your workshop equipment, as well as the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) for the use of lifting equipment, such as vehicle lifts.

This is just a small selection of the health and safety laws that could apply to your workshop and, although it can be a lot to consider, it’s well worth reading up on to provide you with a framework for your workplace. The Health and Safety Executive have prepared a guide to health and safety in motor vehicle repair that covers most of what you need to know.

Make sure that tools and equipment are used safely

Having a wide range of specialist tools and equipment in your workshop is essential for covering all types of repairs, but they can also be one of the biggest dangers if they aren’t used properly.

The first step is to make sure that all of your staff have received the correct training before they use a tool for the first time, so they can use it without posing a risk to themselves and others. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you communicate the right guidance to your workforce. Remember that this also applies to experienced staff members if they are using a new piece of equipment or an updated model of something that they’ve used before.

You should also pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding tool and equipment maintenance and care. Not only will this make sure that your gear is always in the best condition with minimum downtime, but it will hugely reduce the risk of tools malfunctioning and causing a safety hazard themselves.

Provide staff with appropriate uniform and PPE

Depending on your business policy, your staff may or may not be required to wear a uniform, but you should definitely have rules to ensure their safety. Make sure that all your employees wear non-loose attire with full length sleeves and legs to guard against cuts, scrapes, and burns, as well as any risk of clothing getting caught in machinery. A good solution is to provide coveralls that your staff can wear that will keep clothes out of the way and offer suitable protection.

You will need to make sure that your workforce has access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to act as a last line of defence in the event of an incident. At the most basic level you should offer safety glasses and goggles, suitable work gloves, and kneepads for floor work. For specialist jobs, such as welding or painting, you need to provide PPE to match the job, like full-face masks or respirators. Ensure this equipment is always available to staff and take the time to check they are using it when required.

Take precautions with chemical, electrical, and fire safety

In your workshop, some of the biggest threats to safety come from chemical and electrical hazards, as well as the many dangers posed by fire. You can minimise the risks associated with these by practicing a cautious approach, then making sure your employees follow suit.

We’ve already mentioned the need for appropriate gloves and protective eyewear, and these are essential for work with potentially harmful chemicals. When storing these substances on-site, you will need to make sure they’re labelled with the right safety information and instructions for use, and your staff should know exactly where to access these details. You’ll also need secure storage to make sure these chemical products can’t be mishandled or stolen.

As standard practice, you should have an emergency electrical shut-off installed in your workshop already, but you need to ensure each of your employees knows where it is and how to use it in the event of an emergency. Regularly inspect all of your power tools and other machinery for any signs of frayed cables or loose sockets, which will minimise the chances of electrocution or electrical fire.

Fires can be caused by a whole host of things, including chemical and electrical mishaps, and that’s why it’s important to be prepared. Your workshop should have a working set of fire extinguishers that are checked regularly to ensure that they can be used straight away, and your employees should receive full training in their use. Your fire evacuation plan should be posted throughout the workshop and staff must be made aware of what they need to do and where to go.

Follow these tips and you can make sure your automotive workshop is a safe place for you and your employees to work.  However, it’s important to remember that this advice isn’t exhaustive, and you should refer to the HSE’s advice for motor vehicle repair for detailed guidance.

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