A FEW DAYS ago I was in a shop talking with the techs about shop safety. The conversation was lighthearted and included some ribbing about one tech in particular, who according to the crew at the facility, always seemed to be hurting himself in new and "interesting" ways.
One of the managers at the shop went so far as to suggest that they start to collect the bubble wrap packaging that some parts were delivered in, and fashion a suit for the tech. Judging by the stories they relayed to me about this gentleman, I thought that probably was a pretty good idea.
Although we were joking and having fun at this poor guy's expense, shop safety is no laughing matter. In fact, it is just the opposite – a very serious issue in our industry. Think about the processes and chemicals we are all exposed to daily in the collision repair field. Many of them are toxic and present potential health hazards. Also, often we are surrounded with sharp, jagged metal, flying sparks, high voltage batteries, razor blades and hot welding spatter.
Much of what a collision shop employee is exposed to daily is dangerous. Unfortunately, many shops do very little to help improve the safety of their employees and customers exposed to this environment.
Why? I believe much of the reason is due to a lack of knowledge regarding what to do to make things safer, especially on a budget. Let's not confuse general shop safety with OSHA compliance; although the two terms definitely go hand in hand, they are not the same. A safer shop will help you be in compliance by default, but it won't secure compliance by itself.
We could write a book on shop safety, but in this article my goal is to provide direction to help get your shop focused on the path to safety, and give you the tools to get a good head start on the entire process.