Thursday, 10 June 2010
I can remember going into scrap yards as a teenager looking for parts for my Ford Escort, and having to climb three vehicles high to strip out the cylinder head that I wanted, there was no health and safety or environmental concerns, if you dropped your spanner it could have killed anyone unfortunate enough to be underneath, hi-viz was completely unknown and if oil was leaking out you just kicked some more mud over it!
Guard dogs roamed freely and if they didn’t like you they bit first. In fact I can remember one yard where the dog was chained to the back half of a car (an Austin Allegro was one of the sections used) that had no rear suspension, and he dragged this around the yard after him. Slowed him down a bit, but he could still bite you.
Nowadays you cannot get into many yards, and if you do you are dressed in safety boots, hi-viz and hard hats, and accompanied by a member of staff. Is this a sign of progress, or political correctness gone too far?
Those of us who are a certain age can all remember being driven in our parent’s cars, no seat belts, air bags or anti lock brakes, metal dashboards, hard plastic steering wheels, drum brakes and cross ply tyres. As car design and safety has increased dramatically since the 1970’s so has our recognition of unsafe practices at work. Some of the practices of generations past need to be consigned to the crusher, but have we gone too far?
I agree, the safety of employees and members of the public are of utmost importance, and we need to take all possible precautions to make working environments as safe as possible, but there seems to be too much reliance upon personal safety clothing than focusing on safe practices.
Formula 1 is recognised to be an unsafe sport where death and injury used to be regular occurrence, the steps taken over many years have made the operating environment - the cars and the tracks much safer, and then the driver’s safety equipment has been proved to be fit for purpose in preventing further injury in the event of an accident.
Motor salvage yards need reflect on Formula 1 experience, and make the operating environment as safe as possible – look at the condition of the yards, the vehicle handling and storage, the safe keeping of hazardous fluids and the de-pollution and vehicle repair environment, and then ensure that their employee’s safety equipment is fit for purpose.
This year, yes 2010, I have visited over 100 salvage yards, I deliberately leave my hi-viz equipment in the car when I arrive, and only 3 of the yards I have visited have asked me to wear any safety equipment as I complete site inspections. Of these yards, a number are open to customers, some stack vehicles two high, and I have seen vehicles being de-polluted whilst hanging from fork lifts. Standards are improving, but there is a long way to go.