The Major Threats to Life in the Motor Trade

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The annual death rate in the motor vehicle repair industry is 1.6 deaths per 100,000 workers — around four times the average rate across all industries. So, in this potentially hazardous industry it is the task of the employer, to protect workers by identifying the risks and minimising the impact of those risks. Failure to learn from near misses or injuries will risk lives.

The Most Common Cause of Fatalities

Most accidents in servicing/mechanical repair involve slips, trips and falls or poor manual handling. Those resulting in serious injury or death can include working with petrol and vehicle movement.

However, most fatalities in the industry are caused when a person is trapped (and crushed) under an inadequately supported vehicle which has been raised or had a wheel removed. 17 of motor vehicle repair deaths in the last five years have been attributed to this.

The HSE has produced advice for the trade for ensuring that a vehicle is properly supported before any work begins on it. This includes:

Never work beneath a vehicle that is only supported on jacks:

  • Use axle stands that are in good condition and inspected every year.
  • Use stands on firm, level ground and securely located under a strong point on the vehicle.
  • Securely chock wheels remaining on the ground.
  • Do not exceed the rated capacity of the stand.

Never work beneath a cab or tipping trailer unless it is propped:

  • Always prop cabs, trailers, etc., that could drop under their own weight.
  • The prop should be locked in position before gaining access.
  • If there is no prop fitted, or if one is fitted but you are unsure it will be effective, provide your own.

Never crawl beneath a vehicle fitted with air suspension unless it is properly supported:

  • Prevent movement of air suspension, either by using suitably rated props or stands to prevent the chassis lowering, or by deflating the system.
  • Don’t tamper with the ride height for the purpose of recovery or repair.

Other Major Areas of Risk

Ensuring equipment used is right for the job:

Typically, the type of plant and equipment that would be found in these environments would include motor vehicle lifting tables, jacks, scissor lifts, axle stands, engine hoists, car spraying booths, air receivers, tyre machines and pressurised oil drainers.

One of the precautions to minimise the most serious risks is to ensure that equipment being used is the right equipment for the job, that the operators know how to use it properly, that it is installed properly and that it is maintained and inspected to ensure that it remains in a safe condition.

Tyre inflation:

Removal, replacement and inflation of tyres is extremely common in motor vehicle repair (around 30 million tyres are replaced in the UK each year), so it may seem a simple task. But it can cause injury and even death.

See the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) website for valuable guidance on Tyre removal, replacement and inflation.

Dust and fumes:

Several processes in the re-tread industry produce inhalable and respirable nuisance dust. Businesses must prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately control the exposure of employees to dust from tyre re-tread processes, such as tyre buffing and skiving operations.

When working in an enclosed workshop, fumes can quickly build up if vehicle engines are left running for any period of time, particularly when several engines are running at once. People affected can be mechanics working directly on the vehicles, or anyone likely to be within the workshop i.e. office staff or the public visiting to check on their vehicle. Exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide which cause headaches and sickness – and can ultimately result in asphyxiation and potentially death.

Effective local exhaust ventilation (LEV) equipment should be designed to capture dust and toxic fumes at the point where they are generated and should be subject to a thorough examination at least every 14 months.

Getting Guidance and Support

You will find comprehensive guidance and advice on how to deal with the hazards found within the motor vehicle repair industry in the Motor Trade specialist sector on the Arch Risk Management website, including from the industry’s leading bodies.

We are here to help

If you are concerned about how this affects you and your business and would like support in assessing your needs, we are here to help. Please do get in touch for confidential advice and guidance.

This article was adapted from an article by Arch which can be found here.