An Exclusive Auto Repair Injury Prevention Study from GMG EnviroSafe: How Training New Employees Dramatically Reduces Workplace Injuries
Workplace injuries are a troubling but persistent issue, particularly with auto repair technicians. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Mechanics are more likely than the average worker to be injured or killed on the job, as evidenced by higher rates of fatalities, injuries and illnesses.” Workplace injury statistics are alarming. BLS reports more than 17,000 work-related injuries a year for automotive technicians and repairers, including bus and truck mechanics. Lacerations, sprains, eye injuries and chemical burns are among the most common. But each injury can result in lost wages, significant time off, hospital visits, or worse. A culture of safety, however, not only keeps technicians safe, but can aid in employee retention.
Our Auto Repair Injury Prevention Survey
GMG EnviroSafe is the nation’s leader in OSHA and EPA compliance services for auto repair facilities, including dealerships and body shops. In order to help make those facilities safer, we recently conducted a multi-year study to determine how workplace injuries can be significantly reduced.
We conducted a survey and injury analysis that included employees at more than 1,100 collision repair centers, coast to coast. We analyzed injury incident rates, tracking detailed data for more than 3,500 injuries over nearly 10 years.
Our analysis revealed that technicians often learn how to handle the various workplace hazards and processes by rote, but when put into a new environment, or given new responsibilities, a learning curve is often needed. In other words, it’s not just years of experience that help auto repair technicians avoid obstacles, but familiarity with the tools at, and layout of, a particular facility. Even small changes, such as a new co-worker, a new workplace layout, new chemicals or processes, can create unexpected challenges.
Given this information, we looked more closely at the relationship between tenure in a location, and injury. When a technician suffered an injury, how long had they typically been working at their current facility? Our study revealed the following workplace injury statistics:
- 57% of injuries occurred during a technician’s first 2 years at a facility. 38% of the injuries happened during the first year.
- The type of injury shifted over time, with lacerations more prominent early in someone’s tenure. Strains were the most prominent injury after the first year.
We also looked at the age of technicians when they were injured. We wanted to make sure that overall inexperience wasn’t the main factor of an injury, versus newness to a facility. Our original hypothesis was confirmed. In fact, we found that the 18-24 age bracket had the fewest injuries—accounting for just 8% of the total. After that, all other age groups consistently accounted for between 11%-12% of total injuries.
The clear link between location-specific experience and injury reinforced that training was imperative at the beginning of an employee’s tenure at a new location, regardless of their overall level of industry experience. Establishing a safety culture within an organization, such as by providing thorough onboarding training, communicating a commitment to safety, and distributing PPE during the first day, was paramount for auto repair injury prevention.
The Impact of Early Training
Based on the data, we enhanced our Day 1 training program and then tracked the outcomes. Per our program, technicians started OSHA safety training on their very first day of employment. That “first day” technician training process included completing a number of required training modules, issuance of all required PPE, and a signed agreement by each technician to ensure they fully understood all training requirements and safety expectations.
Our results have been significant. Technicians who completed this program experienced 33% lower first-year injury rates, and this improvement held steady thereafter. We are currently increasing our safety program to include formal check-in points throughout the first two years of tenure and a signed recommitment to safety after the first year, creating a continued emphasis and awareness of safety protocols.
This program has an additional benefit—employee loyalty. Studies have shown that when technicians are injured, they often leave their jobs, but a culture of safety can increase employee retention. For example, a Gallup study revealed that employees are 59% less likely to leave their jobs if they feel valued, engaged and are physically healthy while at work; a commitment to safety goes a long way to fostering those feelings and well-being.
Reduce Your Injuries
Establishing a culture of safety, and implementing day 1 training protocols will dramatically reduce workplace injuries. At GMG EnviroSafe, we can assist with your auto repair injury prevention. We not only will help you establish safety protocols and train your staff, but are experts in making auto repair and collision centers compliant with all EHS regulations and requirements. Ask us how we can help at gmgenvirosafe.com/contact-us/.