Sean Goude: Foreheads and Knuckles, a Look at Shop Safety

Before you start thinking that I’m going to sneak a shop safety spill on you, let me assure you that’s not the case.  This month’s article deals with how much skin we’ve left in engine bays and how much blood has been spilled on the garage floor.  This is a universal fact in doing maintenance:  THERE WILL BE BLOOD.  Any mechanic with more than a day’s worth of experience knows this to be true.  As the lead mechanic and head technician in the power TV garage, I want to share some of the shop hazards that I have encountered and talk about the numerous ways in which I have managed to wound and maim myself on a daily basis.

Looking back, some of these were funny as hell, at least to the bystanders in the garage, and I’m willing to share them with you if you share your best garage gaffs with us.  In the interest of real safety, I’ll explain some of the things I’ve done to keep me from spilling more blood and looking like a dumb ass in front of the video crew.  So sit back put your feet up and feel free to learn something as I reflect on the legendary mishaps I have experienced in the powerTV studio shop.

I'm a superhero but even superheroes have their kryptonite.

I’m a super hero.  No, really, and I am willing to admit it.  In order to qualify as a super hero, you have to face an evil doer.  That one nemesis whose sole purpose is to bring you down or at least make you look bad in front of your adoring public.  Being the maniacal mechanic, and bona-fide super hero, I have found my archenemy.  In my specific situation, my Lex Luthor happens to be project Grandma which I’m sure you are all familiar with.

For those not familiar with our Project Grandma project car, here’s a brief rundown on the old gal:  Grandma is a 1979 Chevy Malibu with a 25.5 funny car roll cage, wheelie bars, and a parachute.  All the stuff you need and want when you are going fast at the track.  Under the hood is a 555ci big block motor that gets her moving.  You can read more about this project car in the vehicle build articles here.

Now don’t get me wrong about Grandma, like any decent villain she is an awesome car and probably one of the coolest projects we have here at PowerTv.  However just like any Grandma she loves to give you kisses.  In my case though its usually a kiss to the forehead that leaves me with a headache.

Headaches are a part of the job if you don't slow down.

A specific instance, that really woke me up that day, happened during my first month or so here in the shop.  I was minding my own business working on Madd Maxx, our dirt track car.  So I walked over to the tool box to get some tools and as I am walking back across the shop, behind Grandma which happens to be on the two post lift,  I am looking at the tools in my hand preparing for my next task.  Then all of the sudden out of no where I’m sitting on my butt on the shop floor and my wrenches that were previously in my hand are now spread out all over the dam floor.  Now I’m not sure if she was jealous of the attention Maxx was getting or maybe she just wanted to prove a point.

Needless to say this was a bit of a shock to me because usually I can make it all the way across an entire room without falling over.  As I look up and see Grandma sitting there practically laughing at me, I look around to find myself lucky that no one else was fortunate enough to see my mishap.  So as I gather my tools and myself together I realize that I was just knocked flat on my ass by walking full speed into Grandma’s wheelie bars.  Now upon reflection I’m sure this is more my fault then Grandma’s but it sure is nice to have someone to blame.

Common sense and using the right tool for the job will prevent a lot of pain.

As I stated in the title, this article is supposed to be about shop safety and not me beating my self up, so here is my most important safety tip.  SLOW DOWN!!! 90% of the times that I hurt myself or make a mistake in the shop I can trace it back to me being in a rush.  Now there is no excuse for not taking the time to do something right.  You will always find that when in a hurry or a rush not only do you often times hurt yourself, but that is where mistakes are made and things are forgotten.  So if I could stress one shop safety tip more then any other it would be to take a couple deep breathes and slow the hell down.  Now the times when you want to do this the least is when it needs to be done the most.

Not using the right tools or "just making do" will end up hurting a lot more.

I feel that I can’t stress this issue enough, as it has been one of the hardest things for me to do.  I am naturally a hyper person that doesn’t have an off button so getting me to slow down on any level was a daunting task I’m sure.  But through the help of my boss, co-workers, and the occasional kiss from Grandma I think I have come a long way.  Although this is still something I have to think about on an every day basis, along with all the other shop safety that is entailed with working in an automotive performance shop.

I would like to leave you with one final great example that my boss gave me when I started working here to help me slow myself down.  He said that “time taken on a job and quality of the job you are working on are directly related to each other whether you like it or not.”  He went on to illustrate the point further by saying; “For instance if I was to tell you to go pull a motor out of a vehicle you would take your time and label every wire and hose.  You would put all the nuts and bolts in labeled bags.  Take time to drain all the fluids and keep the shop or garage in a generally clean manner.

Pausing for effect and making eye contact, he finished with: “However, if I told you I wanted that motor out of the vehicle in 15 minutes you could get it done.  There would be cut wires and hoses.  Bolts would be all over the place as well as oil, coolant, and transmission fluid.  The motor would be out of the car in a fraction of the time but the quality of the work just went in the trash.

Slow down and take the time to keep the garage clean. Slips, trips and falls are the number 1 cause of reported industrial accidents.

Now this is not an excuse to be a slug when your working on a car.  There is a very fine line to be drawn on this topic.  That line is different for everyone depending on the task you are trying to complete and your experience level.  So hopefully next time you find yourself getting impatient with a job whether it be cars or construction you will remember my first step to safety, not driving, that is SLOW DOWN.

Until next time remember floor it and stay dirty.

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