Wrenching Tips: Shop Safety

This post originally appeared here, at Hooniverse.com.

Ok, this is a boring topic, but we felt it definitely deserved a place in this series. If you have spent any considerable time working in the garage, shop, driveway, carport, or parking lot, you have probably cut some corners when it comes to safety. You may have even had a close call or two. Stop doing that. Here are some tips that will help to keep the doctor away.

You can dance if you want to…

[Disclaimer: All tips on this list are meant to help keep you safe as you work on your hoon-mobile or other projects, this list is not comprehensive, nor does needthatcar.com accept any liability in the event that you wreck yourself.]

There are two main components to shop safety – safe practices and safety equipment. Let’s start with the equipment. Here is a list of things you are sure to own and some others you may not have thought of.


Gloves: You should have several types of gloves in the shop. Leather gloves, heavy leather welding gloves, chemical resistant rubber gloves, vinyl/nitrile/latex examination gloves, and for finer work, a pair of cotton gloves is often handy. Protect your digits.

Safety glasses: A clear pair, a shaded pair, or goggles, which are handy for those of us who wear prescription eyeglasses. If you do wear prescription glasses, don’t use them as your safety glasses. They will get scratched and ruined and/or they won’t protect you from those items you need the most protection from.

Face shields: If you are grinding, drilling, or using any other high-speed power tool (even a weedwacker), use a face shield. The shards from a broken grinding disc will certainly mess up your beautiful face if they hit you. Also, the shavings from grinding or sanding will find a way through the gaps of your safety glasses to your eyes. I have a friend who recently had to use a magnet to drag a bunch of metal shavings out of his eye. He was wearing safety glasses, but no face shield. Of course, use a welding helmet when you are welding. The industry standard has become the auto-darkening type, which work great.

Steel-toed boots: Let’s face it, steel-toed boots are heavy, uncomfortable, and hot. But they are worth their weight in gold the first time you drop a hammer, an intake manifold, or a big chunk of steel on your foot. If you have them, wear them. If you don’t have them, you can get them for under $50 at your local Mega-Mart.

Leather aprons and vests: These are handy anytime you are working with heat or heat generating work. Most people don’t have this equipment, but your local Chinese tool distributer has them for pretty cheap.

Fire extinguishers: Keep at least one fire extinguisher handy. If at all possible, mount it on the wall where it doesn’t get swallowed up by all the random stuff you set down on your shelf or workbench. If you suddenly need it, you don’t want to be wondering where you set it down. When it comes time to use it, use the P.A.S.S. method to put out the fire. Also, if you are using a torch, grinder, or welder, it is a good idea to bring a bucket of water into the garage, which may be a quicker, cleaner way to put out a fire if you get to it early enough. (But don’t throw water on chemical fires.)

Eye wash: For $12 or so, you can buy a bottle of sterile saline eyewash. Keep it in the shop and use it when you get chemicals or other contaminants in your eyes. The faster you start flushing the eyes, the better, and saline eyewash is much easier on your eyes than tap water.

Ear plugs and ear muffs: Just like your fingers and your eyes, your ears need protecting. You only get one set of each, so protect them with ear plugs or ear muffs. This is a very cheap bit of equipment.

Dust masks and respirators: If you are sanding or working with chemicals, be careful about what you are breathing in. The fewer particulates you invite into your lungs, the better. If you are working with chemicals, read the label and understand what you need to do to protect yourself from them. You may even need a fresh-air mask for certain types of paint.

Full body suits: Painters suits aren’t just worn to keep the painter from getting messy, they are worn to keep him/her safe. The chemicals in paint can be absorbed though the skin as well as the lungs. The more you keep off of yourself, the better.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors: These are cheap insurance. You may be engrossed in your welding project while your broom is going up in flames. Or, you may leave something smoldering that you weren’t aware of. The smoke alarm might just prevent a catastrophe. A CO detector will let you know to clear out when the air in your shop becomes dangerous.


There are far too many safety practices to list, but this list will highlight a few. Feel free to chime in with further ideas.

Jack stands: If you are a hoon, you have jacked up a car and crawled under it. Just don’t do it. Use jack stands. If you don’t have any available, use something. A chunk of wood, an old rim, anything to keep the car from crushing your head. Of course, a properly rated jack stand in a solid location on a flat surface is the safest. Just don’t squish yourself.

[image: zaluki.com]

Grinding wheels: I have mentioned grinding a lot of times. It’s one of the most dangerous things you can do in the shop. Use grinding wheels properly. Don’t use the side of the wheel on a bench grinder, don’t grind grooves in the wheel. If you are using a handheld grinder, be sure the shower of grinding spray is away from you and other flammable items. When using a cutoff wheel, keep it square to the work to keep it from shattering. Don’t wrap yourself in the cord in case it grabs something and takes off across the room.

Clothes: Don’t wear loose, hanging clothing around any type of machinery. You don’t want to get sucked into a drill press or an alternator. This also applies to long hair. Also, jeans offer much more protection than shorts. When dealing with heat, cotton or wool will burn, but polyesther clothes will melt and stick to your skin. Wear natural fibers.

Shop cleanliness: Keep your work area clear. Many accidents are preventable by simply cleaning up. Keep your shop and tools clean and organized and you’ll avoid trips and falls, fires, banged up shins, etc…

Ventilation: Most automotive work requires a decent amount of shop ventilation. Keep fans around, doors open, and air moving through your shop if you are running an engine, grinding, welding, painting, using chemicals, and so on.

Lifting: I often joke, “Bend at the waist, lift with your back.” It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it also serves as an actual reminder on how to actually lift properly. Bend at the knees, lift with the legs. When possible, use equipment like hand trucks or engine hoists to aid with lifting. One of the worst possible shop injuries is to damage your back.

Label your containers: If you use some random container to store some chemical or liquid, label it. Even if it is only water, use a Sharpie and write what the bottle contains on the outside. Odds are that some of those bottles are going to end up on a shelf and you may forget what is in it. This is especially important if you use, say, a coolant bottle to store used motor oil or fuel. Labeling it may save you from finding out as it begins to pour into your radiator.

Aerosol cans:  Be careful with aerosol cans.  They generally contain something flammable.  At the very least, they are pressurized.  Keep them away from heat sources.  Also, keep them away from car batteries.  The battery tends to be a flat surface that’s handy for setting things on, but don’t set aerosol cans on one.  If the can gets knocked over and arcs the positive terminal and a ground, there is enough current to instantly burn a hole through the can and you’ll have a rocket or an explosion on your hands. 

This list is, by no means, exhaustive. Jump in in the comments section with further ideas or anecdotes. Be safe, hoons.

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