What makes a car stand out in the crowd of millions of others? Is it the style? Is it the paint? Or is it the price? All of these can make a car appeal to people, but do they take the time to think of the work and effort involving making a car look they way it does? The professionals in auto body know what it takes to make a car look and stay brand new. This is a profession that most people do not understand. They do not know the health risks and hazards involved in completing very simple to complex jobs. Many workers in this field are exposed to health and environmental risks everyday on the job. Due to the amount of potential health hazards involved in the auto body profession, owners and technicians need to be educated in the regulated use, storage, and disposal of hazardous chemicals, as well as trained in proper safety procedures to promote a safe work environment.
Many professionals are aware of the hazards and safety procedures that exist but do not want to change due to costs. The costs for new and up to date equipment can be very expensive. The new equipment also isn’t mandatory so there is no reason for them to change, but the safety and more environment friendly elements make up for the cost and should be made mandatory. Abiding by the rules makes for more training for employees and more responsibility for owners and it is easy to not follow the regulations and laws.
One of the first laws a person in the field of auto body should know is the, “Right to Know Law”. The federal government and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration established this law to help keep workers safe on the job. According to this law, auto body workers have the right to be taught about the hazardous materials that they will be exposed to, and the ways to protect themselves. Workers also need to know that they cannot be fired or discriminated against for asking for information and training on the proper procedure or use of hazardous materials in the workplace (Peters 1).
A second important law auto body professionals need to be familiar with is “The Hazard Communication Regulation.” The Hazard Communication Regulation affects all companies and businesses using hazardous materials at anytime. According to this law, owners must tell employees which materials in the workplace are hazardous, and where the materials are used.
Auto body owners are responsible to teach employees how to tell if hazardous materials have been released, explain container labels, provide material safety data sheets (MSDS), and how to use the information. Employers also need to teach emergency procedures and provide workers with proper protective equipment.
One simple way to help create a safe work environment and also prevent pollution is to properly use and store hazardous materials. Training in this area is the most important factor. Training can help prevent accidents, reduce waste, lower workers compensation claims, and reduce shop liability. Another way to insure safety is by keeping lids closed, and checking containers regularly for leaks and spills. This can prevent the loss of a product, and reduce employee exposure to chemicals. Also, labeling all containers, including waste containers, can prevent costly mistakes. Signs such as, “respirators required”, outside rooms where hazardous materials are stored can prevent improper exposure to fumes. Finally, stored materials that are highly flammable or explosive such as aerosol products should be stored away from the shop, in a locked enclosed area with a concrete floor, to reduce fire danger (“Housekeeping”).
Another important factor in safety procedures is mixing materials in the auto body shop. This is an area that workers need extensive training to ensure their safety. Before mixing any hazardous materials the worker must prepare the area, be informed about the material, read the MSDS about the material, put on protective equipment, and make sure the area is properly ventilated. In preparing the area, mixing a material such as paint should be done in a clean room with adequate space and lighting. Being informed, involves the worker reading and understanding the material safety data sheet on the product being used. These sheets are required by OHSA, the U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and they identify the hazards and safety procedures needed to be safe in using the hazardous material (“Housekeeping”).
The protective safety equipment needed in mixing may include gloves, paint suits, and respirators with organic cartridges. Since paint mixing involves physically handling potentially hazardous liquids, painters who mix paints are prone to significant skin and inhalation exposure. Painters can protect themselves from possible hazardous exposures by wearing gloves, using paint suits, and maintaining properly fitted air-purifying respirators (“General Best”).
Due to the highly flammable environment in an auto body shop, technicians need to be educated in fire prevention, fire procedures and safety equipment. Fire prevention involves storing of hazardous materials properly, inspecting spray booths weekly, removing excess paint build up from paint booths, replacing paint filters regularly, making sure containers are properly sealed, and cleaning up spills immediately. In case of a fire, the workers need training to immediately report the fire to the shop manager, call the fire department, evacuate everyone from the building, close all doors and windows and wait for help. If the fire seems controllable, the worker needs to put on protective equipment such as a respirator, and with the correct kind of fire extinguisher, put the fire out.
Since almost every material used in auto body shops today can be a health hazard, auto body workers need to be trained in first aid. They need to know how to treat chemical burns, large heat burns, inhaled toxic substances, swallowed poisonous materials and shock. If not treated correctly, exposure to certain materials could cause lung, kidney, and liver diseases, as well as cancers, sterility and birth defects. Nervous system and brain damage may be caused by materials that are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, then make their way into the bloodstream. Therefore, auto body workers need to know where first aid supplies are kept, be trained in first aid procedures, and know where emergency medical numbers and poison control information is listed.
As shown by evidence, auto body is a hazardous profession. All workers involved in auto body should be educated and trained in dealing with hazardous materials and what is needed to comply with all of the safety regulations. Due to continuous laws involving hazardous chemicals and required safety procedures, workers in the area of auto body will have a safer work environment. Possibly, in the future non- toxic paint and solvents may be invented, but for now there are many hazardous materials involved in the field of auto body. Auto body workers will continue to make cars look like new in spite of the hazards. In conclusion, the next time a car appears with a great paint job, admire the car, but also think of the hazards the auto body professionals had to protect against to get it that way.