Optimizing auto body shop safety starts with the owner

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It's no secret that pieces of safety gear aren't always considered to be the coolest accessories that one can own or wear. However, they are essential in helping guarantee the safety of workers. So where does the enforcement of donning such items begin?

It starts with the person who has the most influence – you, the auto body shop owner. This forces you to walk a fine line. After all, you probably work in the shop yourself. You don't want to seem like a strict boss, but at the same time, you don't want people putting themselves unnecessarily in harm's way.

List the essentials
Encouraging employees to wear safety gear means creating a plan. Start at square one and list all the items that would help protect auto body shop workers. These include:

  • Safety eyewear: Safety goggles that protect the eyes on all sides may not always be necessary, depending on what people are doing. Having both glasses and goggles on-hand will ensure that they can choose the ones that best suit their needs.
  • Work boots: Spills are commonplace at auto body shops. Cars can leak oil, or people can spill drinks or knock over containers full of liquids. Additionally, many automobile fluids are inherently slippery – such as oil. Decrease the chances of slip accidents by requiring workers to wear slip-resistant boots.
  • Respirators: Spray paint fumes are toxic, so disposable masks won't provide enough of a barrier for employees. High-grade full face respirators will ensure that the fumes don't seep into the mask and that they stay away from their faces.
  • Gloves: Disposable rubber gloves will keep workers' hands safe from many chemicals, while heavy-duty leather gloves will protect them from sharp edges.
  • Additional safety clothing: Though employees will have outfits that they're willing to sacrifice in terms of cleanliness, there are times when what they wear won't provide enough protection. Any tasks that involve sparks are inherently dangerous, and having only one layer of fabric between them and a worker's skin isn't enough. Welding jackets, aprons and coveralls can serve as extra protection in these situations.

Speak to workers about the risks
Owners can quell any hesitations that employees may have about safety equipment by speaking to them about the risks associated with not using the items. There's a high risk of injury at auto body shops, but workers may not realize the severity of such accidents.

A slip can result in broken bones. Inhalation of spray paint fumes can lead to eye irritation, asthma, nasal congestion, a sore throat, shortness of breath and chest tightness. A small cut on the finger can turn into a full-on infection. These are only some of the issues that can arise from not adhering to best practices in safety.

Speak with employees at length about the long-term effects of exposure to hazardous materials without wearing any protective gear. It's not just a matter of raising awareness – it's also a matter of keeping everybody safe and healthy.

There may be some difficulties with adherence in the beginning. There might even be some resistance. However, constantly and politely reminding employees to stick to best practices will show that you care for their well-being – and don't forget to lead by example. At the end of the day, despite any difficulties you might face, remember that a safe work environment leads to happier workers.

Brought to you by Shoes For Crews, the trusted leader in safety footwear to industrial employees for more than 30 years.

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