Make sure you stock ear protection gear for welders and any employees who work around everything from pneumatic tools to loud ventilation systems. If maintaining your employees’ good health wasn’t enough motivation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that repairers must provide hearing protection for workers exposed to noises louder than 115 dB for more than 15 minutes over the course of an 8-hour workday.
Head and face
Protecting your head begins with selecting a fire-resistant welder’s cap or other covering under the welding helmet. Some helmets have become so comfortable that employees may be tempted to ignore a covering. This is a mistake since these coverings protect hair and bare skin not fully covered by a helmet from heat and flames.
From there, select a combination of helmet and eye protection that, once again, account for intense lights and fragments. Start with a comfortable, clean pair of safety glasses. Since many helmets provide protection from flying degree, glasses or goggles might seem unnecessary. That simply isn’t the case. Protective eyewear should be worn throughout a shop. When it comes to welding, eyewear can shield eyes from debris and fumes that can find their way (and often do) onto a welder’s face by slipping under the front of the helmet.
The helmet itself must be compliant with American National Standard for Occupational (ANSI) Z49.1, with lenses and filters compliant with ANSI Z87.1. The best choice is an auto-darkening model that provides the necessary protection while allowing a welder to focus on the job without needing to draw down a darkening visor. These helmets provide the additional benefit of combining safety and efficiency since welders can get right to work without dealing with distractions that can move welding equipment out of position.
Locking protection in place
A proper work uniform, gloves, helmet and few other protective pieces—that’s all standard work gear that would difficult for any seasoned repair professional to overlook. Yet it happens. There reasons for that are many, but a good part of the blame can be placed on lack of training and standards.
A recent I-CAR survey noted that half of the industry doesn’t train regularly. Important here, along with not receiving the technical knowledge and experience they need, many techs aren’t getting necessary face-time with professionals who can address safety issues. That can translate into lots of bad unsafe habits. Fortunately, there’s plenty your shop can do to get employees in the necessary protective gear.
- Educate. Safety training should be a regular practice at every shop. Owners, managers and staff all need to be intimately familiar with OSHA requirements throughout a body shop and in their particular department. Need help? Contact a consultant or reach out to vendors who sell protective gear. Vendors will know OSHA requirements and be able to answer questions and steer a business in the right direction.
- Set standards. Make rules regarding protective wear. Enforce clothing and protection policies. Post signage in work and other employee areas reminding them of shop rules.
- Set penalties. Employees who do break policy need face real consequences. If an offense is serious enough or if an employee continues to break rules, don’t hesitate to couple verbal warnings with written notifications and other penalties such as suspensions. It can be difficult for some employees to change bad habits. These bad habits are especially serious since they threaten health, lives and the financial well-being of a business.
- Stock the right gear. Employees can’t dress right if a shop doesn’t maintain protective gear. Again, speak with your vendors. Ask about upgrades and new products that combine safety, efficiency and comfort.
- Let employees choose. Some shops have found a near surefire way to get all employees in the right gear all the time. They ask employees to try out and pick their own gear. Oftentimes, employees will neglect safety gear because it’s uncomfortable. With plenty of options available for every piece of gear they need, workers should be able to find affordable protection they won’t mind wearing.
Ensuring safe practices can be just the easy. The right clothing doesn’t just make the man and woman. It can determine whether they return to work tomorrow. That’s what every repairer wants.