How to prioritise health & safety when running a garage business

What are some ways to keep a garage business safe?

Garage workshops are busy, noisy and often dirty places. Frequent vehicle movements and the use of a wide variety of tools and machines means they’re hazardous places. There aren’t many workplaces with so much going on, often in a relatively small space.

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The vehicle repair industry is one of the most dangerous and almost ranks alongside construction and agriculture for the number of injuries that occur. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) there have been 7,000 injuries and 33 deaths in the motor vehicle repair industry during five years.

Most injuries in garages are caused by slips, trips and falls, moving vehicles and goods around and manual handling. Add in risks from working with heat, hazardous substances, lifting equipment, compressed air tools, plus potential exposure to fumes and it’s clear that mechanics face a host of hazards at work every day.

A commitment to health and safety and taking action to minimise risk is essential. Keeping workers safe and protected means identifying the following common hazards and implementing preventative measures.

Preventing slips and trips

The HSE also says that around one in five injuries in the motor repair industry are due to slips, trips and falls. Though one of the most common risks in any garage, preventing slips, trips and falls is also relatively straightforward to implement. Much of it is to do with good housekeeping and ensuring the workshop is free from congestion.

Tools or cables lying on the floor are a trip hazard so ensuring everything is put away after use is important. Mechanics use an assortment of viscous liquids every day including brake fluid, oil, grease and coolant. Absorbent mats soak up spills while a readily available stock of wipes and cloths is essential.

Working safely at height and in inspection pits

Several serious injuries occur in the motor repair trade every year caused by falling from height. Ladders fixed in place, barrier rails around mezzanine areas and regular checks of each will minimise the risk of a fall.

Most garages also have an inspection pit which brings several hazards. An unfenced or uncovered pit is a fall risk and there’s the chance of a slip when entering it from steps. There are also risks of head injuries from items falling onto workers in a pit so head and eye protection is a good idea.

Working with hazardous chemicals and flammable sources

Few workplaces have as many hazardous and flammable substances as a vehicle repair garage. Welding and flame cutting equipment should be used away from fuel sources where possible with screens in place and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Adequate exhaust ventilation may be required to remove toxic fumes and a respiratory mask to avoid inhalation.

Storage and use of hazardous substances should be subject to a COSHH assessment in line with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. The risk of developing conditions such as dermatitis and occupational asthma can be controlled with suitable PPE.

Working safely with tyres and compressed air

Tyre fitting is a core offering for many garages. Workers are subject to injury risks when removing and replacing tyres and using tools such as tyre levers. A tyre that bursts has the potential to cause serious injury or even death. Proper checks of equipment such as inflation gauges are essential to minimise the risk of overinflation and explosion. There are many effects of over or under inflated tyres that can have an impact on your driving such as your braking, handling, fuel consumption and more.

A cage guard or restraining device can be implemented to minimise the chance of injury from an exploding tyre. Tyres should always be inflated using compressed air, and inspections of hoses and fittings before each use should be completed. When using air tools, mechanics should be supplied with PPE including safety goggles, gloves and hearing protection if required.

More safety tips for working safely in the garage

There are lots of safe ways of working that can be adopted too to prevent the risk of injury such as:

  • Wearing suitable clothing that isn’t too loose and is made from tough enough material to withstand banging and scraping with sleeves to prevent burns from hot engines.
  • Disconnecting batteries when working on electrical systems
  • Not placing tools in running engines in case a moving part causes them to be fired out
  • Using machinery wherever possible to avoid manual handling injuries.
  • Taking regular breaks when using vibrating tools or performing repetitive tasks.

Ultimately, if you run a business employing mechanics then health and safety should be a number one priority and it is a business owner’s responsibility to ensure all staff are trained and competent. Working together is the best way to make sure everyone stays safe and that your team and customers have confidence in all that you do.