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How to Avoid a Fire at Your Auto Body Shop

Eight tips from GMG EnviroSafe to help you prevent fires in your auto repair facility.

It’s Fire Prevention Awareness Week. Do you know how to avoid a fire at your facility?

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According to OSHA, more than 5,000 workers are killed on the job per year, and fires are one of the leading causes of workplace injury and death. Auto repair facilities are particularly vulnerable to fires due to a variety of hazards including paint, thinner, gasoline and other flammable liquids, volatile chemicals, punctured gas cylinders and faulty electrical equipment. What better time to remind ourselves how to stay safe than with these fire prevention tips for fire prevention week?

Fire safety is everyone’s job. Managers should know fire codes and ensure the workplace is safe. Employees should be trained to identify fire hazards and know what to do in case of a fire emergency. Here are eight fire prevention tips from GMG EnviroSafe to help you prevent fires in your auto repair facility.

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  1. Maintain working fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers must be installed and maintained in all industrial or commercial buildings as required in NFPA Code 10. They should be accessible throughout the facility, and especially outside a flammable liquids storage room, hot work area and spraybooth or mixing room. According to Code 10, fire extinguishers must be subjected to yearly maintenance and must have a tag or label securely attached that indicates when the maintenance was performed, as well as the person and company who performed it. All employees should be trained to use them.
  2. Train employees. In addition to training all employees on proper fire extinguisher use, workers should also be able to identify potential hazards and know how to mitigate them. Those employees who will be working in positions where they’re more likely to be exposed to hazards, such as employees who perform spray painting and welding, should be properly certified.
  3. Keep the workplace clean. You never know when a spark might erupt, especially during cutting or welding work, so always keep the facility clean from combustible hazards. These steps include removing trash and waste daily, cleaning up oil spills immediately and discarding all oily rags in metal storage containers with self-closing lids.
  4. Store smart. Flammable and combustible liquids including paints, thinners and adhesives should be stored separately from other types of chemicals, such as those that are corrosive or highly reactive. They should also be stored in approved flammable liquid storage cabinets and kept away from heating sources like furnaces and hot water heaters. Equipment that needs to be stored with caution includes oxygen and fuel tanks. These should be kept separately, away from heat and sunlight, and in a dry, well-ventilated area. Gas cylinders should be stored away from heavy traffic areas and should be chained securely to avoid damage.
  5. Use electrical equipment properly. Ensure all electrical equipment and tools are properly grounded before they are used and immediately discontinue the use of any damaged electrical equipment. Inspect and maintain battery charging equipment regularly (and keep combustibles far away from it). Avoid the use of common and inadequate household surge protectors and extension cords.
  6. Spray paint with caution. Spray painting is a common fire hazard, which is why employees should always spray paint in an approved spraybooth equipped with automatic fire-suppression equipment. Ensure the booth has proper ventilation, and routinely change exhaust filters, ducts and interior walls.
  7. Avoid excess heat. Don’t use space heaters, portable lamps or any flame source where spray painting or welding is done, or near oil or gas cylinders. Use explosion-proof electric fixtures and switches that are designed for use in environments with flammable vapors. Enforce all “No Smoking” rules.
  8. Develop and implement a fire prevention program. OSHA regulation 1910 Subpart E states that employers with more than 10 employees must have a written emergency action plan and a written fire prevention plan (employers with 10 or fewer employees must still have these emergency plans, but they do not need to be in writing). These plans should include clear instructions regarding management leadership, worker participation and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards. Regular workplace inspections are also important tools for identifying hazards and fixing them, which is why your fire prevention plans should include weekly self-inspections, daily housekeeping and cleanup duties, and regular preventive maintenance of HVAC and fire-protection systems.

By following all of these fire prevention tips, you’ll be taking a big step toward keeping your employees as well as your facility safer. GMG EnviroSafe provides a number of tools and services to help protect you, including a job hazard assessment plus classroom-based training that includes fire prevention tips, information on proper PPE and more. To contact GMG EnviroSafe for a personal assessment of your facility, click here.

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To learn more about fire prevention week, click here.

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