Most people who don’t have the time or inclination to work on their own vehicles have a trusted mechanic they turn to when repairs are needed. But they probably don’t realize the daily dangers mechanics face on the job.
The auto repair shop includes many risks for a mechanic. Even vehicle parts can prove hazardous to their health.
The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration reported 91 deaths in auto repair and maintenance workplaces in 2015. That’s nearly two a week for the year.
Vehicle repair shops also are among the businesses with the greatest risk of exposing workers to asbestos, which can lead to deadly cancer known as mesothelioma, according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Network. Manufacturers of vehicle parts often used asbestos in components like brakes and clutches because of its reliability, increasing the risk that mechanics who later worked on those parts might be exposed to it and suffer the health consequences.
Despite the workplace risks, auto repair shops have become even more popular in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While other businesses were laying off and furloughing workers, repair shops went on a hiring spree, making mechanics one of the nation’s top 10 in-demand jobs.
While the work opportunity might be appealing, consider the risks involved and whether you have the necessary skills to do it right. And also consider how well repair shop owners manage risk in their workplace.
Here are the top risks identified by OSHA.
1) Sprains, strains, and tears: Mechanics find themselves contorting their bodies every day while working on cars, leaning over an engine, or reaching up for that hard to access bolt. The most common injury they face is a sprain or a strain, maybe from lifting a cumbersome part of working with a heavy tool.
2) Cuts, lacerations, and punctures: It’s easy to accidentally cut yourself when trying to pry loose a stubborn screw or nut lodged awkwardly near the engine. Mechanics work with grease and oil, so it’s also not unusual for them to become injured when their hands lose grip and hit a sharp vehicle part.
3) Fractures: When working around slippery surfaces all day, it’s not surprising that vehicle mechanics face the possibility of broken bones, one of the top injuries reported at their workplace. This is one of the main reasons repair shops work so hard to keep customers out of the work areas, to avoid an accident that injures one of their clients.
The dangers mechanics face are real and might explain why the job ranked among the worst in the nation by job site CareerCast, based on work environment quality, stress, and income. Be grateful if you have a favorite mechanic because chances are they are taking a greater risk servicing your vehicle than you realize.