Working in the realm of auto body repair can be extremely rewarding. From achieving technical excellence to exceeding customer expectations, the benefits of working in this industry are many and varied.
But the auto body repair shop environment also presents some hazards. Alongside repetitive motion disorder, noise exposure and the risk of slips, falls and mechanical injury, body shops can also pose a threat to a worker’s respiratory system, too.
For those who carry out auto shop body repair, using paints, primers, polishes and fillers is a necessity. But these substances, alongside dust and other particles produced by machinery, can irritate the respiratory tract, and can damage eyes and skin.
Thankfully, there are a number of steps that can be taken to minimise or eradicate these threats. Workers should have access to painting suits, respirators and gloves as and when necessary. In addition, managers of body shops should ensure repair locations are well ventilated to prevent the accumulation of hazardous fumes and other particles.
Asbestos, too, may pose a threat to some workers, since it is used in some brake and clutch systems. Asbestos is a hazardous substance that can cause lung cancer.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has published requirements for assembling, inspecting, disassembling and repairing brakes and clutches, partly with a view to eliminate exposure to asbestos.
The guidelines have been created to “reduce employees’ asbestos exposure below the permissible exposure level” and describe a number of techniques to carry out these tasks safely.
Aside from any direct impact from fumes, dust and other particles, poor air quality in the workplace can exacerbate existing respiratory issues. Many thousands of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies and sensitive respiratory systems.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not set specific standards as regards indoor air quality, but employers are required by law to “provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury.”
According to OSHA, poor indoor air quality can result from badly maintained ventilation systems, contaminated or ineffective ventilation systems, problems with air-conditioning and heating systems, and dampness – among others.
Alongside respiratory issues such as coughs, asthma and shortness of breath, poor indoor air quality can trigger headaches, fatigue and fever.
While employers have a moral and legal duty of care to ensure indoor air quality is high for their workers, there are other benefits to ensuring employee health is maintained – among them reduced sick days, improved productivity – and greater employee satisfaction.
In summary, OSHA stipulates that good indoor air quality derives from “comfortable temperature and humidity, adequate supply of fresh outdoor air, and control of pollutants from inside and outside of the building.”
Anyone concerned about the indoor air quality of their workplace should talk to their building manager. It may be necessary to check the building’s temperature and ventilation systems, and to determine if mold or water damage is adversely affecting indoor air quality.
Given the serious and long-term impact of respiratory health problems, it’s important to act as soon as any issue arises.