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Calamities Can Lurk at Auto Repair Shops

Automobile repair shops are in virtually every city in America no matter how big or how small the city.

Automobile repair shops perform services and repair work, including oil changes, brake repair, engine tune ups, etc. Some of the more frequent hazards and recommendations that I make to avoid calamities at these shops are:

  • A missing fuse link on the parts washer can be a hazard. The fuse link melts in the event of a fire and allows the lid to shut which extinguishes the fire. The solution for this problem is simply to replace the fuse link, and in some cases, the entire parts washer may need to be replaced. A trend in the industry is to use parts washers that do not require flammable liquids and are eco-friendly.
  • Lack of proper number of fire extinguishers or fire extinguishers not properly serviced is another example of a safety hazard. Fire extinguishers are essential in fighting minor fires that often occur in auto repair shops. The requirement is one fire extinguisher for every 3,000 sq ft.
  • Housekeeping issues such as oil on the floor can cause slips and falls. This can be a hazard to employees and/or customers. All spills should be cleaned up immediately to prevent a possible slip and fall accident.
  • Soiled rags not properly stored prior to disposal can lead to an accident. Spontaneous combustion fires have been known to occur with improperly stored soiled rags. Oily rags should be stored in an approved container with a self-closing lid to prevent spontaneous combustion.
  • Surprisingly, weeds and vegetation not properly controlled around the exterior of the building can be a safety hazard, too. Weeds and vegetation can contribute to fires outside the
    building, particularly in extremely dry and hot weather in the summer months. Either the insured or a qualified lawn contractor should regularly address this issue. This is mainly a problem in the spring and summer.
  • Vapors can present hazards. When working on vehicles, the potential exists for the fumes from gasoline to hang lower, spread further, and become heavily concentrated in the air we breathe, allowing them to spread easily to nearby sources of ignition. When mixed in the right proportion of gas to oxygen, the fumes from one cup of gasoline have the explosive power produced by 5 pounds of dynamite. Any heat source can be a potential ignition source for a fire caused by gasoline vapors. The most common type of ignition sources that cause gasoline fires are cigarettes and pilot lights on water heaters and appliances. Wood burning stoves should not be located in an auto repair garage. If there is a gas furnace or hot water heater, it should be elevated at least 8 feet off the ground or enclosed by fire resistant walls and a door with a rating of at least 1 1/2 hours.

Of course there are many other hazards associated with auto repair shops, but these seem to be the most common. One should always be alert to possible lurking calamities waiting to happen!

Mike Goodman, ARM
Senior Loss Control Representative

Call Toll-Free 1-800-322-0160