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KPA shares prevention tips to avoid most common repairer injuries

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On the heels of Injury Prevention Month, KPA North Central District Manager Nick Hardesty shared some tips with Repairer Driven News that collision repair shops can take to prevent on-site accidents and injuries.

The most common injuries, he said, are to repairers’ eyes and backs.

“It is always important that the shop employees wear safety glasses, goggles, or a face shield depending on the work they are doing,” Hardesty said. “When a hazard assessment of the shop is completed, it will be evident that at nearly any time an employee is working in the shop, there is a potential threat to injure their eyes. That hazard could be dust, a flying object, chemicals, or light radiation from welding.”

When it comes to back injuries, he said, they’re usually due to not using the right equipment to move objects and/or a lack of training.

“It is always important to have appropriate equipment for employees to use in order to lift and move objects around the shop. A forklift, hand truck, and a wheeled cart can help prevent a random strain or sprain. Another helpful tool in the shop is another employee. So many techs will not ask for help and feel like they can lift and move something on their own. With a good training program, employees will be educated on the equipment they should use, proper lifting techniques, and that getting help is always a great option.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s published proper lifting technique starts with planning – make sure your path and surroundings are flat, dry, and free of debris; see if the object is too heavy to lift alone or if you’ll need help, plan where you’re going and how you’ll get there before starting. Next, stretch your back and legs with lower back rotations and the hamstring stretch. A few jumping jacks or running in place also are good to do before lifting to promote good blood flow, according to OSHA.

“To lift safely, you should stand as close to the load as possible so you don’t exert more force onto your back by extending the distance,” OSHA guidance states. “Then bend your knees and keep your upper body upright so your legs do the lifting rather than your back. Look straight ahead and keep your back straight and shoulders back so you have a slight arch in your lower back. Get a good grip on the load and use your feet to change direction, taking small steps as you go. As you change direction, lead with your hips and keep your shoulders in line with your hip’s movement. Keep the load close to your body with your elbows at your sides.”

OSHA says the following should be avoided when lifting:

    • Twisting or turning your body;
    • Attempting to carry a load that is too heavy or too large;
    • Lifting an object above shoulder level;
    • Bending forward rather than squatting down to your load;
    • Using a partial grip with only one or two fingers;
    • Lifting or working while fatigued;
    • Obstructing your vision while carrying a load;
    • Rushing through the process; and
    • Holding your breath.

Last year, KPA found that in 2020 the top five most cited OSHA violations at repair shops and dealerships were:

    • Hazard communication – violations usually occur because of “the complexity and paperwork involved in compliance;”
    • Respiratory protection – many violations occur when respiratory protection programs aren’t laid out in writing, fit testing isn’t done, or medical evaluations are inadequate;
    • Electrical systems – violations can occur wiring is not correctly labeled;
    • Powered industrial trucks – violations often occur when forklifts tip over due to balancing issues or when they’re driven too fast and when the operator doesn’t see someone step into their path; and
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – inadequate eye and face protection is one of the most common OSHA violations, according to KPA, because the eyes and face are “often under-protected and overexposed” because workers and employers “frequently underestimate the risk of eye and face injuries.”

A recently published guide by KPA for dealerships provides a great deal of information on how to document and track injuries to prevent them from occurring in the future. The tips can be used at collision centers as well, according to Hardesty, but the usefulness of the data tracking methods will vary by the experience level each shop has in tracking injury histories, he said. He noted that owners who have multiple shops will have more data to analyze for a better picture of injury history. However, every injury should always be documented with an OSHA 301 form.

“This information over time can be used to calculate a shop’s TRIR (Total Recordable Incident Rate) or DART (Days Away from work, days of Restricted work activity, and days of jobs Transfer) rates,” Hardesty said. “These data points can be good tools to track your safety performance over time. In my opinion, a better way for a shop to prevent future injuries would be tracking and discussing their first aid only incidents and near misses. More importantly, they should be ensuring their employees know that a near miss, as embarrassing as it may be, should always be reported. Make it a habit to observe, investigate, and document each incident thoroughly, no matter how minor. Ignoring the root cause of these near misses that occur within your workplace can lead to serious injuries sooner, if not later.”

Details of each incident should include a detailed description, conditions in the area, insight into what led to the near-miss, and a suggestion from the employee of what could’ve been done to avoid the near-miss, he added. The OSHA form will also log the time and location of the incident, which employee or employees were involved, what occurred before and after the incident, and the physician or health care professional who evaluated the employee(s), according to KPA.

“With this information, you can have productive conversations during your safety committee meetings,” Hardesty said. “These conversations will lead to preventative measures taken to minimize or eliminate the chance for a serious injury in the future.

“…As an example, an injury or hazardous situation was observed,” Hardesty said. “What now? Do you have a way to document what happened, determine the root cause, establish an actionable item to prevent injury/hazard in the future, assign a responsible individual, assign a due date, have a way to track if/when it was completed and how? If you can create this workflow and use technology to track your progress you will get to the point where things don’t slip through the cracks.”

KPA also recommends in the guide that a “Job Safety Analysis,” or “JSA,” be conducted and training reports kept. A JSA can “identify and
control potential hazards associated with jobs, procedures, environments, or processes. JSA’s are an exercise in detective work to help answer questions like ‘What could go wrong?’ and ‘What are the consequences?'”

Training reports are used to “gain a holistic view” of who has completed training because “pockets of employees who haven’t completed their safety training are red flags for mishaps in the future,” the guide states.

More information

SCRS/SEMA session highlights worker safety OSHA requirements


Featured image credit: bsd555/iStock

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