Practicing Garage Safety
By Courtney Evans
“Safety is a cheap and effective insurance policy” or “If safety is a joke, then death is the punch-line’, or better still, how about the ever popular “Accidents hurt-safety doesn’t”. What do these three sayings have in common other than the word “safety”? They are all derived from wisdom gained by the hardship or misfortune of some individual(s) who did not take a little extra time or invest a little bit of care prior to taking some seemingly ”benign” activity.
While striving to be a Grease Monkey Junkie is certainly a worthy endeavor and saving money is a direct result of this pursuit, if you do not practice proper safety procedures and guidelines, your hobby/career may be very short-lived and could end up costing you more than you think. Garage Safety is basically a mindset that views every task, no matter how easy or difficult, as potentially dangerous.
The practice of Garage Safety can be broken down into 3 elements: You, Environment, and Procedure Precautions, conveniently and cleverly, I might add, forming the acronym Y.E.P. This acronym is short, easy to remember, and states the affirmative for every task you begin.
Let’s explore each element a little more.
The first element is You, as in “You” the person. Are you protecting yourself? Just as you would make sure that you have all the parts and tools needed to complete the job, you need to make sure that you are protected from the dangers that you will encounter. Let’s break it down…
Eye Protection- Make sure that you always wear safety glasses or goggles when working on your vehicles. There are several potential hazards to you eyes. Eye safety equipment protects your eyes from flying objects, namely, dirt and debris, harmful liquids and chemicals, tools and parts, and even harmful gases and fumes. For example, there’s nothing more irritating than working under your vehicle and having a bit of “greasy” dirt drop in your eye. That will definitely put things on “hold” for a bit. If you’re lucky, that’s all that will happen.
Wear Proper Clothing- Proper clothing protects your skin from scrapes and abrasions. If you don’t have a pair of the “fancy” mechanic’s overalls, wear long pants and protective shoes. Don’t wear anything that’s too loose.
Wear Ear Protection- Make sure that you protect your ears. Most air tools make loud noises. If you are performing any grinding, cutting, or even using an air wrench to remove wheel lugs, wear ear plugs.
No “Bling”- “Bling” is not king when it comes to working on you car, truck, or motorcycle. Make sure you remove any jewelry, such as necklaces, watches, rings, and bracelets. Not only could you damage these things but they may turn on you and act as accomplices during accidents. A necklace could easily snag on a spinning fan blade causing you to be pulled into the engine. A bracelet could cause a “shock” if it comes in contact with a battery terminal. Those are just a few of the dangers.
Wear Gloves- Gloves will protect your hands from scrapes and abrasions. They also lessen the severity of the inevitable knuckle-crunches that occur during auto repairs. Mechanics gloves offer great protection. Gloves also keep your hands and fingernails clean. Nitrile gloves do a great job!
Let’s talk about the working environment.
Clean Work Area- You want to make sure that you’re garage environment is clean and organized. Make sure that there is plenty of room to work around your vehicle. Pick up any tools that are not in use.
Lighting- The work area should be well lit. I find that light from multiple sources works best, such as, ceiling shop lights, flashlights, headband lights, and magnetic task lights.
Spills- Always clean up spills immediately. Most automotive fluids are greasy which can easily lead to slips and falls. Do this for yourself and those around you.
Ventilation- Make sure that your garage is well ventilated. Most automotive fluids create toxic fumes. Never run an engine in a closed space.
With regards to Procedure Precautions, I’m referring to the specific precautions that should be taken for a particular task. Here are a few examples:
Disconnect the battery whenever you’re working on electrical components such as when you’re replacing your alternator. This is one “crime” that I’ve been guilty of myself. I forgot to disconnect the battery before starting this repair. I unbolted and disconnected the alternator. The positive wire that attaches to the back of the alternator came in contact with the negatively charged engine block and boy, did the sparks fly! To say that I was startled is the understatement of the century! I’ll never do that again!
Never get underneath a vehicle supported solely by a jack. Always use jack stands to support your vehicle. Use your floor jack as another level of redundancy for added insurance even while the vehicle is resting on jack stands. I still get nervous anytime I’m under a vehicle making repairs. Even after all safety procedures are followed.
Never remove the radiator cap from a hot or warm engine- There’s nothing worse than pressurized, boiling liquid. Let the engine cool first
Always chock your wheels when jacking a vehicle, even you’re putting it up on jack stands or ramps.
Those are just a few examples. Every procedure has unique precautions that should be observed. Consult your service manual for each procedure or parts guide when swapping parts.
So, before beginning any automotive or motorcycle repair, review the acronym Y.E.P. to make sure everything is safe. Eye protection? Y.E.P.! Gloves? Y.E.P.! Clean working environment? Y.E.P.! OK, ready to go!
Today’s essay wasn’t written to scare you. It wasn’t written to discourage you. It was written to remind you of the value of your health and your life. Sometimes we’re all a little bit too hasty when we’re trying to get things done, especially as the pace of life quickens and our never ending to-do lists continue to grow. Always regard repairs with the proper level of respect. Never become complacent. If you do, you’ll invite accidents!
Don’t become a statistic. Stand apart from them.
I want you to learn to repair and maintain your vehicles. I want you to save lots of money in the process. But most of all, I want you to live a happy and healthy life filled with the satisfaction and the joy that comes from doing-it-yourself.
Garage Safety first? Y.E.P.!
“Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it.” Those are definitely words to live by.