Safety is important as it pertains to the people that enter the workspace of a mechanic. But you must also consider the safety of your tools, supplies, your shop, and vehicles inside. The risks of damage and bodily harm are always present.
There are certain things you can do to mitigate risks while the garage is operating, and safety measures to take when you a closing down for the day. For instance, basic considerations would dictate to pick up all your tools so nobody trips on your expensive impact gun, making sure there is no risk of fire after using acetylene torches (watch out for those rags laying around), and storing your gas bottles into a purpose-built safety storage cage (more info on that here).
Still, a safe workspace goes a lot further than just that. Here are the five safety considerations auto mechanics need to make for their shop so they can protect everything that is important.
1. Employee Safety
One of the biggest safety concerns in a shop is that an employee will injure themselves or another. An error that most people make when trying to combat this type of safety consideration is thinking that the only risk is operator error.
Negligence can be a tremendous hurdle, but poorly articulated protocols and faulty equipment can also put employees in danger. Make sure that you have a clear line of communication with your workers so that they can come to you to express concerns about the auto shop’s safety.
Your employees are your best line of defense for bringing up issues and solutions to the risks that they see. The best way to foster this type of relationship is to act on the information that you are given.
Not every auto mechanic can afford to replace old equipment, but you can show your workers in an obvious way that you are saving up, or otherwise actively searching for a solution to their concerns. This line of communication also allows you to express your own concerns about their safety.
2. Protecting Customers
Customers can place themselves at risk by wandering around, hovering over workers, or by generally entering the shop and not following safety protocol. One of the best things your auto shop can do to protect customers is to create a customer waiting area. If all you have is a garage, you can use something as simple as lawn chairs to direct customers to a location that is out of the way of any danger.
Most people are looking to hire a trustworthy auto mechanic, and if you are looking out for their safety, you are establishing trust. Be sure that the customer area is far enough away from any hazards that customers feel safe.
The feeling of safety, and being properly taken care of, might be more difficult to accomplish than actual safety. No matter what you are able to do, be sure customers understand the types of behaviors that will put them at risk.
3. Tool/Equipment Storage
If there is not a proper place for something, it is still going to end up somewhere. Making sure there is a designated area for all tools and equipment keeps things from being left lying around.
Locking up tools correctly decreases the risk of tools being lost. It is also less likely that someone will trip or interact with a tool without being aware of it. This benefits everyone’s safety, and also helps to keep your tools safe.
The safety of your tools means less risk of replacement due to damage and theft. If you are storing tools and equipment, they should be under lock and key when they are not in use, or at least when the shop is closed.
Everything you want to be protected should be under lock and key. If you have a lock broken on the exterior of the shop, this will put everything at risk. But when equipment is locked up inside, you have a secondary layer of safety for your tools.
4. Key Storage
Whether it is the keys to the garage or the keys to what is being stored in the shop, all keys need to be properly stored. Most of the keys to the shop can be held by the shop owner and select employees. But which employees should get access to these keys?
You must always consider the risk of employee theft, but also how much an employee can be relied upon not to make copies or lose their keys. Customer vehicles will be left overnight, and keeping their vehicles protected is a major safety concern.
You are likely going to have the keys to the cars you are working on stored in a central location. We strongly suggest you buy a vault or a safe for that matter.
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5. Handling Vehicles
Who is behind the wheel when the car comes into the shop is a tremendous safety consideration. Not all car repairs require a lift, but even if a car does not need to be lined up properly for a lift, there is a danger of hitting tools, other workers, crashing into the garage itself, etc.
Even if the driver seems competent, the car itself might not have reliable brakes or steering. Be sure that whoever is behind the wheel understands how the machine is going to respond.
In some cases, having the owner of the car drive their vehicle into the garage may be the best option. It is not going to be the case all of the time, but for older cars where the owner has been learning tricks to deal with faulty parts rather than spending the time fixing the issues, employees might be surprised by the way the car reacts (or doesn’t react).
By taking these things into consideration, you can protect the most important things to your business. To get a sense of whether your safety measures are already enough, ask yourself how they affect the people in the garage, equipment, the vehicles, and the shop itself? If your safety measures do not endanger any of those aspects of your shop, you are on the right track.