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Air-Bag Smarts

Accidental air-bag deployment can be dangerous and costly, which is why shop owners and technicians need to learn how to prevent it.

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In recent years, drivers have become increasingly
aware of the dangers associated with accidental air-bag deployment.
However, collision repair technicians are also highly at risk
when working on a vehicle equipped with air bags. For this reason,
it’s imperative that technicians and shop owners become familiar
with the hazards posed by accidental air-bag deployment and with
the precautions they can take to prevent such an occurrence.

The Dangers

The safety of collision repair technicians
can be seriously jeopardized if an air bag deploys unexpectedly.
During a routine windshield replacement, one shop employee broke
his leg while being catapulted across the shop floor by an exploding
air bag. He missed six weeks of work.

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Additionally, air bags may contain a powdery
chemical residue that can cause irritation to the eyes and skin.
Another issue that should be taken into account is that not all
air-bag systems are created equal. For example, air-bag deactivation
procedures can vary significantly between vehicles. While some
models may take up to 30 minutes to deactivate, others might require
as little as one second. To further complicate matters, more and
more vehicles are becoming equipped with side-impact air bags,
which increases the probability of accidental deployment. Consequently,
shop owners and technicians must understand the various complexities
involved with each system to ensure maximum safety.

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Aside from potential on-the-job and efficiency
hazards, the costs involved with just one accidental air-bag deployment
can eat up the profits of many collision repair jobs. Replacing
double air bags (driver and passenger sides) once deployed can
cost a shop anywhere from $1,200 to $4,000, depending on the model.

Shop owners also should always be wary of
liability issues, even if the technician is careful to deactivate
the battery or outsource the work. For example, if a sensor is
damaged while replacing a side door panel, the shop can be held
liable if the air bag fails to deploy and someone is injured as
a result.

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Costly Mistakes

Savvy shop owners and technicians can avoid
expensive mistakes by arming themselves with up-to-date information
on air-bag systems. Resources on air-bag systems are available
in CD or manual form and are excellent sources of information
for anyone who repairs vehicles outfitted with air bags. A wealth
of information is available to the industry on the different types
of air-bag systems in domestic and imported cars, trucks and vans,
so take advantage of it.

Accidental air-bag deployment can be dangerous,
confusing and costly for collision repair shop owners and their
employees. By educating yourself on the potential problems and
specifications involved with air-bag systems before an accident
occurs, you’re taking an enormous first step in securing a safe
working environment.

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Writer Serge Pirino is manager of Procedural
Publications, editorial, at Mitchell International.

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