Worker health and safety in the automotive sector post-pandemic
July 9 2021 - The recent changing dynamic with respect to public buying patterns means a potential increase in business for the maintenance and repair sector of the automotive industry.
Specifically, the past year has seen a marked shift away from the purchase of new vehicles, with an attendant rise in sales of used and new-near vehicles.
This shift, coupled with the natural increase in human and vehicular movement in the post-pandemic phase warrants a closer investigation of the specific health and safety needs of workers in the automotive industry, and the vehicle maintenance sub-sector in particular.
Business operations during the pandemic
Vehicle servicing and repair, including MOT services, can be characterized as an essential service and as such, business concerns in the automotive mechanical sector have had to navigate operations through a pandemic, involving the now familiar requirements of social distancing and limitations on customer numbers.
Businesses such as body shop Scotland whose scale of operation encompasses vehicle servicing, crash repair and MOT assessments typify the nature of this industry sector, which involves both planned and unplanned interactions with a broad range of walk-in trade.Increased activity and the automotive maintenance sector
The natural rise in general activity as lockdown restrictions ease brings with it some attendant considerations for this industry sector. The re-opening of the economy naturally means a rise in activity for businesses in the private sector. For the vehicle maintenance sector, the increase in activity also means a substantial rise in ‘unexpected’ maintenance - vehicles are coming out of a period of virtual dormancy, and the tendency is for things to break or require attention. The increase in road traffic also gives rise to increased accidents and mishaps.
The sum total of this is a potential rise in unplanned walk-in trade for the garage or workshop.
Staff awareness and training
A cornerstone to success will be in ensuring staff members are well briefed on the need to maintain an awareness of their surroundings as well as their own personal health and hygiene. With increasing numbers of people vaccinated, the tendency is for personnel to relax their guard, particularly as the pressure of business and customer workflow increases.
Staff should be provided with any relevant and current health information, such as the changing symptoms of new coronavirus variants, and encouraged to maintain an awareness to protect themselves and those around them. Weekly 'toolbox’ meetings' and staff noticeboards in common areas can be used advantageously to drive this message.
The notion that vehicles tend to break and require repair after a period of inactivity can also be applied to staff members in the industry. It benefits the employer to recognize that employees have labored through a period of trying conditions.
Many have struggled with an abnormal level of strain and anxiety, the severity of which can differ greatly from person to person. Weekly meetings and interactions will benefit from an attitude of "How are you going?" as the business returns to normal operations.
Establishing a staff culture of awareness, self-assessment and mutual support is particularly vital in this early post-pandemic phase.