Safety & Accident

How to Minimize Workplace Injuries

November 2010, Government Fleet - Feature

by Stephen Bennett

To minimize work-related injuries, many government fleet managers start by maximizing safety awareness.

Tom Adams, fleet operations supervisor for the City of Olympia, Wash., said he heightens safety awareness "through training and daily reminding" when he tours the shop floor with his lead mechanic.

The half-dozen mechanics under Adams' supervision receive monthly safety training on a range of subjects. Posters and signs displayed throughout the maintenance facility remind mechanics to use their personal protective equipment (PPE) and utilize good safety practices.

"We insist on the use of eye and ear protection as a matter of course," Adams said. "Spills are cleaned up as they occur, and every Wednesday the shop receives a thorough cleaning. We work hard to inculcate automatic good safety practices and behaviors."

Yet safety in the workplace isn't just a matter of "common sense," according to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, a state government entity tasked with public employee safety.

The Bureau advises fleet maintenance departments to regularly review safety policies and procedures and stresses policies should be "living" documents. They should be updated as operational needs and regulatory requirements change.

An effective safety program demonstrates management commitment and includes employees in the development of work processes, the Bureau noted. Worksite inspections and process analyses should be performed regularly, with an eye to identifying hazards. Prompt corrective action should be taken to cope with any identified hazards.

Checking the Top 10 Common Safety Hazards

With that in mind, the Bureau offers a "Top 10" list of commonly overlooked vehicle garage hazards:

1. Vehicle maintenance lifts, material hoists, floor jacks, and jack stands. Lifts and jacks must be regularly inspected according to manufacturer specifications. Typically, lifts and hoists require annual inspection, and jacks must be inspected at least once every six months to ensure continued safe operation. Employers should provide and require jack stands when employees use floor jacks to lift vehicles.

2. Welding and cutting equipment. Maintain all equipment according to manufacturer requirements and provide sufficient ventilation to remove welding fumes and vapors. Allow only trained employees to operate welding and cutting equipment.

To minimize injuries while welding and cutting, only trained employees should be allowed to operate this type of equipment.

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