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Case study: Implementing OHSAS 18001 in a car repair center

OHSAS 18001 and its guiding principles are one of the key elements in ensuring health and safety within the workplace in the modern day, and one sector that is open to an especially large number of hazards is the car repair business. It therefore follows that many car repair centers use OHSAS 18001 and its principles to try and establish and maintain OH&S (operational health and safety) in their organizations, all the way from operations that employ several people all the way to household names that maintain and repair cars for millions of customers on a daily and worldwide scale. Recently, I helped advise on an OHSAS 18001 implementation, so how is best to achieve this and what elements are key to being successful?

Implementing OHSAS 18001 in a car repair center: How and why?

Implementing OHSAS 18001 in a car repair center is broadly similar to any other workplace. A Health and Safety Policy will need to be written, and an OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System) established. Similarly, the clauses of OHSAS 18001 need to be understood, executed, and followed, but it was found that particular elements of the clause itself proved especially critical. Let’s examine these:

  • Participation and consultation: As ever, the car repair business has a special set of hazards (which we shall touch on later), and central to identification and mitigation of these is consultation and participation of the employees. Many employees will have worked in the car repair business for many years and will bring a wealth of information to their position, and will be well aware of many hazards and dangers that lie in the workplace. Involvement and consultation will help you identify these hazards and risks more efficiently. The article How to meet participation and consultation requirements in ISO DIS 45001 can help you with this element.
  • Competence, training, and awareness: Does everyone know exactly what their role is within the OH&SMS? Has someone established a list of emergency contact numbers? Who ensures that the first aid kits are up to date? Does an accident book exist? These are just some of the questions that illustrate how important this element is to OH&S performance. The importance of training and awareness in OHSAS 18001 can provide you with extra detail on this element. Look at your car repair facility and ensure your training meets the hazards present, too – do your staff know what process to follow and how to perform mouth to mouth if someone is overcome by fumes due to faulty extraction? Does your training instruct on the process to follow in the event of an accident with the hydraulic lifts used?
  • Legislation compliance: With compliance to laws regarding lifting, use of machinery, control of exhaust fumes and use of hydraulic lifting machinery amongst others, it is vital that legislation is researched, recorded, updated, and obeyed. With employee safety depending heavily on the correct operation of such pieces of legislation, it is vital that this information is gathered accurately and distributed to employees clearly.

Dealing with hazard and risk

So, while the fundamentals of OHSAS 18001 are similar to implementing in many other sectors, emphasis on these elements certainly helped ensure that OHSAS 18001 was more effective in this particular sector of the car repair industry. Critically, the main difference was identifying hazards and risks within this sector – as they were markedly different from other implementations in different sectors. So, what was found in terms of hazards, and how were they dealt with? Let’s examine this:

  • Equipment-based hazards: As mentioned above, most car repair centers have lots of equipment, whether manual tools, hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic, or a combination of all elements. It is vital that these are correctly serviced, everyone knows how to use them correctly, and any controls that should be in place exist. A training matrix can help you achieve operational excellence, and a preventive maintenance program and log can help ensure that machinery is maintained correctly.
  • Fumes, liquids, and related hazards: Car repair centers will be working with various potentially hazardous agents and potentially poisonous fumes. It is critical to ensure that the correct ventilation and extraction exist, and knowledge is available on how to handle oils, battery acid, and other harmful liquids, including what skin and eye protection you need to wear, and including datasheets and processes for dealing with any incidents or accidents that may occur within the center.
  • Lifting and physical hazards: Employees may need to lift car parts, and training and guidance should be provided on this. Great care should also be taken if an employee is required to work at height, with suitable risk assessment undertaken first.
  • Hot works” danger: Welding, grinding, soldering, and heating fabricated metals are all everyday occurrences in car repair centers. It is vital that employees are trained, machinery is in good working order, and that all mitigation of risk is considered before operation.
  • Moving vehicles: Obviously, it is important that nobody in the repair center is struck by one! Ensure you have a process to avoid this.

Therefore, hazard identification and how those risks are dealt with are central to the OH&S performance of the organization.

Closing out the process

Many challenges were found by this car repair center, and as ever, the identification of hazards specific to this sector and this particular workplace were central to the performance of the OH&SMS. Using employee feedback, consultation, and driving appropriate programs to ensure those risks were mitigated became easier in light of that, but having procedures to deal with accidents is also critical given the nature of the car repair business. Concentrate on the fundamentals of the OHSAS 18001 standard, fulfill them, and take all employee feedback and advice on board, ensuring you close the discussion and education loop and have an OH&SMS that belongs to the employees and not one person who administrates it and writes the policies. The results of your system will be reflected in how well you perform the above elements.

Use our free  Gap Analysis Tool to measure your OH&SMS against the 18001 standard.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.