Health and Safety in Vehicle Repair

Observing and adhering to safe practices in the motor repair trade

While vehicle repair and maintenance safety practices have improved thanks to ongoing safety innovations and the requirements of the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), there have unfortunately been some 7000 injuries and just over 30 fatalities in the trade over the past 5 years.


One of the factors common to vehicle repair is that it isn’t necessarily confined to regulated business premises such as a MVR (Motor Vehicle Repair) facility or a body shop. It includes situations where a repairer is at a customer’s premises such as their home, business or maybe at the roadside.

People using vehicles as part of their work such as farmers could be included as they may, on occasion, conduct basic activities such as changing a tractor wheel or similar.

The HSE and local authority divide the monitoring and enforcement of health and safety between them depending on the type of MVR.

HSE – responsible for enforcement at bodyshops and repair and servicing premises, such as a garage, along with vehicle recoverers and mobile MVR work including repairs at a roadside.

Local authority – chiefly responsible for enforcement at fast fit centres commonly replacing items such as exhaust systems and tyres, also valeting companies and premises where MVR is included as part of the sale of vehicles and spare parts.

This has become less clear cut as businesses involved in vehicle care and sales have tended to move into other related areas. For example, fast fit centres often offer full vehicle servicing facilities and some garages offer valeting and fast fit facilities.



In MVR facilities, many accidents stem from basic slips, trips and falls and inappropriate handling – for example, someone not wearing protective gloves when in contact with corrosive materials.

Fatalities have tended to result mainly as a consequence of working underneath an inadequately supported vehicle often using portable jacks. Most modern garages use hydraulic ramps that are inspected regularly for safe operation.

Other serious injuries and even fatalities have been caused by incidents of exploding tyres; these more commonly occur in other locations away from the MVR facility such as at the roadside or on a farm.

Certain materials such as asbestos (no longer used on modern braking systems but may be encountered in older vehicles), exhaust emissions from engines running in inadequately ventilated spaces, and improperly handled old engine oil and other liquids, such as brake fluid, can cause a hazard.


There are potentially many possible hazards in the use of paints, solvents and the machinery involved in preparing and painting a vehicle.

Respiratory problems and issues stemming from paint and other materials coming into contact with unprotected skin, such as dermatitis, are the most common bodyshop hazards.

The widespread use of paints containing isocyanate has been a cause of asthma, and the material is used in many types of paint and lacquering. If a paint is described as ‘water based’ it may still have isocyanate present – this just means the paint contains fewer solvents and is emulsion based.

The paint mist

A fine ‘mist’ is created when spray painting, and it’s this that can cause respiratory issues. Reputable car paint repair specialists and bodyshops manufacture and supply equipment that is as safe as possible to use, but care and efficient maintenance of related equipment must be taken.

Combatting mist – ensuring industry standard breathing apparatus is used and that no spraying takes place outside the spray booth. Waiting until the booth clears of paint ‘mist’ – this is known as ‘clearance time’ and has to be measured properly with a sensor.

On average, a paint booth will take between one and five minutes at least to clear.

The paint booth – needs regular checking that it seals properly and paint mist doesn’t seep out into the main bodyshop area, and that it runs at a slightly negative air pressure. This is to ensure that, if there is a leak, mist isn’t drawn outside the booth.

Filters and pressure sensors require checking regularly.

If planning a new paint booth, or changes to the existing facility, engaging the services of a proper industry expert is vital.

Staff welfare – the arranging of health checks for those regularly exposed to isocyanate paint. This would usually include the analysis of a urine sample.

Also included is the ensuring of proper working practices; for example, those engaged in spray painting shouldn’t lift their protective visor too soon after spraying thus risking exposure to paint mist before it’s had a chance to dissipate.

The hazards of cutting corners – for example, a quick ‘touch up’ spray or ‘blow over’ should be undertaken in the paint booth with the worker using full protection as opposed to being hurriedly performed in the main bodyshop area.

Knowledge and preconceptions – don’t assume anything regarding paint or bodyshops; these 10 bodyshop myths from the HSE show how dangerous assumptions can be.

Other bodyshop equipment

The use of other materials such as sealers, fillers and lubricants requires proper handling; the HSE would enforce proper use of materials and protection such as using gloves and adequate ventilation.

Other equipment such as polishers and grinders should be used safely, so using the correct levels of protection such as gloves and ear defenders (not just for the user but maybe for those working nearby) would be a HSE requirement.

Safety first

Things have come a long way in vehicle mechanical and body repair techniques, but one can’t be too careful when it comes to safety. Keeping up to date with safety requirements and checking equipment and working practices is highly important.


Aspects of health and safety in the vehicle repair and bodyshop environments. The hazards of working away from base and not adhering to best bodyshop practices.

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Published on: June 12, 2017

Filled Under: Auto Tips and Guides

Views: 1650

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