Leading voices in motor vehicle repair have joined forces with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to sound the alarm about the severe risks of working under vehicles without the proper protective equipment. Astonishingly, HSE figures for the five years before March 2022 reveal that 13 workers in the motor vehicle repair industry lost their lives in accidents caused by inadequately supported vehicles.
Unfortunately, since April 2022, HSE has been made aware of another four cases of workers being crushed to death by incorrectly supported cars. With a plethora of official and anecdotal reports of dangerous working practices, it is no wonder that mechanics and car enthusiasts are worried about the risk of putting their lives in danger regularly.
Classic Motor Cars (CMC), experts in classic car restoration with their own dedicated workshop, are supporting HSE’s call to the industry. “The situation could get worse as people and businesses may cut costs with higher energy bills”, said Tim Griffin, Director at CMC, who oversees a team of experienced engineers and technicians. “My plea is that it’s never a good time to cut corners – the stakes are too high.”
Fiona McGarry, an HSE inspector who works with the motor vehicle repair trade, said, “One death is too many – to us, these tragedies could easily have been avoided, but they keep happening. Sadly, the phrase we hear too often is ‘this will only take me a minute’. It is crucial the correct equipment is used when working under vehicles.”
The annual death rate in the motor vehicle repair industry is 1.62 deaths per 100,000 workers – around four times the average rate across all industries. In total, 21 workers in the motor vehicle repair industry have been killed in the last five years – 13 of which were caused by work under a poorly supported vehicle. Alongside the 13 deaths, there are many more non-fatal injuries and near misses following work under poorly supported vehicles.
Fiona McGarry continued, “We are becoming increasingly concerned about the scale of the issue. Failure to learn from near misses or injuries will risk lives.
“But as the issue has persisted, we needed to raise awareness of the issue together. It is therefore important CMC and the Garage Equipment Association are encouraging everyone who works on vehicles to check HSE’s guidance.”
Julian Woods, CEO of the Garage Equipment Association, said, “We consider health and safety to be of the upmost importance to our industry and any loss of life should be considered an unacceptable situation.
“We drive to improve health and safety not only for our members but in the industry as a whole. It’s all too easy to think it will never happen to me or it will only take a second to sort, so skip safety items to get the job done quickly, but these statistics are unacceptable.
“We all need to be thinking of not only ourselves but everybody’s health and safety. If we see an unsafe act we should raise it up and not just turn a blind eye and keep walking.”
HSE’s advice to the motor trade for working on vehicles without a lift
Never work beneath a vehicle that is only supported on jacks:
- Use axle stands that are in good condition and inspected every year
- Use stands on firm, level ground and securely located under a strong point on the vehicle
- Securely chock wheels remaining on the ground
- Do not exceed the rated capacity of the stand
Never crawl beneath a vehicle fitted with air suspension unless it is properly supported:
- Prevent movement of air suspension, either by using suitably rated props or stands to prevent the chassis lowering or by deflating the system
- Don’t tamper with the ride height for the purpose of recovery or repair