welder-chief.pngSafety is a priority for most shop owners and managers. Collision repair shops do their best to ensure the cars and trucks they work on are safe to drive, and keeping employees protected during repairs is just as important. Injuries are bad news from a dollars standpoint, but even more importantly, owners of shops both large and small care about their technicians. Launching—and sustaining—safety initiatives can help. Here are three keys to doing it successfully:

1. Make an accurate assessment.

Even in shops that say safety is already a priority, it’s wise to pause and take stock once in a while. If there aren’t many accidents or injuries, it’s easy to assume things are OK or that someone must have done a thorough safety audit at some point. Don’t settle when it comes to safety. Make time to take an objective look at how things really stand today.

Collision repair techs are at a greater risk for eye and back injuries, so be sure to assess things like the availability of eye protection and how often team members ask for help when lifting heavy parts. Also consider:

  • Respiratory protection while painting
  • Protective clothing for welders
  • Tripping hazards
  • Aluminum welding fume and dust dangers
  • Hazardous waste disposal
  • Fire safety, such as the availability of fire extinguishers

Overall safety is a complex matter to tackle, and these are just a few of the things you need to consider. For a thorough assessment, OSHA offers safety guidelines, and it’s also smart to consult other shops to see how they protect employees. Hiring an outside safety consultant is another option. All of this can take time and money, but when it comes to the well-being of your employees, it’s a sound investment.

2. Rally the troops.

Promoting a top-down culture of safety is important. When you perform your assessment, communicate the why and how of it to your team. If you let them in on the plan from the start, you can use it as a jumping-off point for a renewed focus on safety, and there’s less risk of someone becoming defensive about the way things have been done in the past. This is truly an effort to improve their work environment. When you communicate that, it can be the start of something great.

Next, be sure to implement any necessary changes in a timely manner. Backing up your words with actions will demonstrate to your team that you mean business. Follow through and make sure new policies are put in place correctly, and that people are adhering to them. To reinforce the culture of safety, reward individuals who go above and beyond when it comes to protection policies.

3. Provide ongoing training.

To make sure your initiatives are carried out properly, it’s important to train your team on them. All new employees should participate in safety training as part of the onboarding process, and you should also establish a schedule to reinforce important lessons with current employees.

To keep safety measures top of mind, add signage in key areas. For instance, you may want to add a poster reminding aluminum welders to always use fume extractors. It’s also important to make a plan to reassess your safety initiatives from time to time. Without a refresh plan, you run the risk of falling into old habits and assumptions that “Nothing bad has happened lately, so we must be doing OK.” A culture of safety is truly a culture of constant assessment. Combat complacency, and you’ll be on a better path.