Improvements in technology and safety precautions have limited many hazards and risks in the workplace, but the business of auto repair often exposes technicians to unusual risks. From the tools technicians work with to the products necessary to repair vehicles, there are many ways for them to injure themselves or suffer serious disabilities.
Older vehicles may have parts made with asbestos before manufacturers knew the harmful health effects this material would have on people. Brake pads and clutch components containing asbestos can cause serious health problems, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and irritation of the sac around the heart. One way for auto repair technicians to protect themselves from asbestos exposure is to keep clutches, brakes and other items made of asbestos damp. This prevents the particles from becoming air-borne and inhaled.
Running vehicles emit carbon monoxide, and without proper ventilation, these emissions can be hazardous to auto repair technicians. If the garage fills with exhaust, technicians risk asthma, lung cancer and, in the worst cases, death. Repair shops can limit this hazard by routing a hose, uninterrupted, from the tail pipe of a running vehicle to outside the shop.
Auto repair work exposes technicians to a wide variety of potentially hazardous chemicals, including cleaners, paints, gasoline, diesel, brake fluid, antifreeze, nickel, benzene and antiknock agents. Chemical exposure can lead to stomach and breathing problems, nausea, dizziness, increased risk for cancer, irritated eyes, lead poisoning and headaches. To limit these risks and hazards, technicians should wear protective eye wear, gloves and respirators.
When mechanics use shop vacuums, electric drills, automobile horns, running engines, sanders and impact wrenches, they expose themselves to noises that lead to hearing damage. Michigan State University warns that without protection, by the time an auto mechanic reaches age 25, he'll have the hearing of a 60-year-old.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Asbestos
- California Department of Public Health: Injury, Illness, & Pollution Prevention in Auto Repair (PDF)
- International Labour Organization: International Hazard Datasheets on Occupation -- Mechanic, automobile
- Michigan State University: Did You Know that Auto Repair Workers are at High Risk for Occupational Hearing Loss? (PDF)
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