Play it Safe While Working on Vehicles

Wayne Blanchard
Posted on January 1, 2006

With operating costs constantly on the rise, operators are always looking for new ways to save money. One of these cost-cutting practices is doing standard vehicle maintenance and minor repairs in-house. Although this helps keep expenses down, it also presents potential hazards if you’re not careful.


Preventive Measures

Many injuries occur when a person is working under the hood of a running car. The easiest way to avoid this is to turn the engine off, but there are times when the engine has to be on to fix a problem or make a repair.


Adhere to these safety precautions when the engine is running:


§         Avoid loose clothing, which can get caught in a moving belt.

§         Work from the side of the car. Working from the front of the car poses a higher risk of falling into the belts and fan or dropping a tool into the belt, which can become a dangerous projectile.

§         Wear safety glasses. Protective eyewear is a must whenever you work on a vehicle.

§         Set the parking brake in case the car is accidentally bumped into gear.

§         Properly vent exhaust fumes. Automobile exhaust contains deadly carbon monoxide.


But even when the engine is off, dangers still exist so heed this advice:

§         Avoid hot surfaces. The exhaust and other surfaces quickly get hot and take a long time to cool. Always be cautious when working around them.

§         Never open a radiator when hot. A hot radiator will be under pressure and can spray hot coolant.

§         Disconnect all batteries when working on any electrical component. Always wear gloves and eye protection when working on batteries. Always remove the battery cell vent covers prior to charging to prevent a buildup of explosive gasses. Never cross cables — black is negative (-) and red is positive (+) — because crossing them could cause a battery to explode. Never smoke or have an open flame near a car battery, which could ignite explosive gasses.

§         Never replace a blown fuse with a higher amperage fuse. Fuses are rated for a particular gauge wiring and using a higher amp fuse may result in a fire.


You also need to be extremely careful when working under or around a raised vehicle so follow these safety measures:

§         Never raise a vehicle without bracing it with jack stands. They will hold the vehicle if the jack fails or tips.

§         Use wheel chocks to secure both the front and rear of the tire opposite of the corner you are raising.

§         Never raise a vehicle without a work partner.

§         Always set the parking brake when raising a vehicle.

§         Never climb under a running vehicle.


Housekeeping Rules

Besides looking impressive, a clean work area can prevent plenty of hazards. Follow these guidelines to stay safe:

§         Clean all spills immediately. Any liquid spilled on a cement floor can be very slippery. Have spare mats and absorbent products, such as granules, on hand. Cat litter or sand can be used as a temporary solution.

§         Be sure all cords and wires are out of the way and don’t create a tripping hazard. All cords in use should be marked and have a cord mat over them. Unnecessary cords should be coiled and stored away.

§         Remove or organize any clutter that may create a tripping hazard for someone. This also applies to all tools, jacks, supplies and any other piece of equipment.


Related Topics: in-house repairs, maintenance, shop safety

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