It’s not the most exciting subject in the automotive classroom, but it’s certainly one of the most important. Even if your students aren’t eagerly awaiting your lesson on how to use eye protection or the importance of inspecting equipment, you know how necessary it is for students to absorb and follow safety guidelines. All it takes is one accident to ruin a person’s day, week, or even their entire life, which means skimping on teaching safety is not an option.
But besides emphasizing the consequences of poor safety practices, how can you be sure your students always know and put into practice the safety knowledge you’re trying to teach?
Teaching the Basics
Introducing automotive safety means familiarizing students with general safety rules related to the shop area, including recognizing unsafe equipment. Even if they aren’t using a particular piece of equipment, students need to know the potential dangers of being around it and be aware that they should not use any equipment until they are trained in how to use it properly.
Students should first be made aware of the rules of the shop area before they even enter. Teach the rules and then test the students to ensure that they understand. Make sure to answer any questions students have so that they can follow the rules accurately.
Instructors should also ensure that students are familiar with specific safety practices related to the tasks they teach. Many require the use of lift equipment, so, make sure your students know the following:
How to inspect lift equipment
- Vehicle lifts, jacks, jack stands, engine hoists, slings, and chains
- Lift capacity or safe working load
- Checking and testing lift equipment in accordance with local or state-specific regulations
Proper use of vehicle lift equipment
- Proper load distribution/vehicle placement
- Proper contact points/connection methods
Proper usage of jacks and jack stands
- Not using vehicle jacks to support the weight of a vehicle, even for short jobs
Knowledge of engine hoists and stands
- Awareness of lift capacity at various extensions
This foundational knowledge is only the first step in reinforcing safe practices. After students have been introduced to these concepts, they still need to begin practicing them.
Demonstrating Safety in the Shop
Walk through safety practices in the shop and ask students to demonstrate them. Asking students to physically check equipment or perform other safe behaviors will help them memorize these tasks reflexively.
Students should practice behaviors like:
- Checking for inspection dates, stickers, or certificates on lift equipment
- Visually checking for missing or damaged parts before using equipment
- Verifying lift, jack, and jack stand capacities
Instructors might need to be hands-on while students learn certain practices, such as identifying lift points for vehicles. Additionally, instructors can demonstrate proper usage of equipment, like how to use engine hoists and securing the engine to an engine stand or how to operate the controls and locking mechanisms on vehicle lifts. Take the time to go over each of these practices in a way that will help students understand how to properly operate the equipment.
Encouraging Practice and Safe Performance
Students need practice to reinforce what they’ve learned. Therefore, when learning about safety procedures, they should have clear, repeated opportunities to practice those behaviors. Once safety behaviors have been reinforced in the shop, instructors should continue to expect students to demonstrate safe practices when performing their tasks.
If you see students start to slip on their safety practices, be sure to stop the activities in the shop, gather students around, and reteach the safety procedure. If a student continues to work in an unsafe manner, you should remove that student from the shop and contact your administration.
Remember, you are the one ultimately responsible for safety in the shop, not your students. So, always be sure to emphasize and monitor safety. Not doing so will only create an atmosphere of poor compliance to the safety rules, leading to accidents in the shop.
When it comes to preventing accidents, teaching your students to practice safety procedures and making sure they are always followed is key. By reinforcing these behaviors from the start, you’re also ensuring that students create safety habits that carry into future employment as well.
Need some help teaching safety and foundation in your automotive course? Check out the newest edition of Fundamentals of Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair, which includes coverage of safety around high-voltage, high-pressure, and high-temperature systems, stop-start issues, and the new GHS hazardous materials guidelines.