It is time for leaders and influencers in the automotive industry to stand up and raise the profile of leadership; focusing on leadership skills and development of these skills is possibly more important than technical skills and training for the shop staff. Skills will reflect in improved staff performance, staff retention, efficiency, safety, profitability, and much more.
There are excellent collision repair centres out there; the truly exceptional are probably the top 10%, unfortunately, I do not work with these every single day! However, whilst training collision repair centres to Level 3 standard in electric and hybrid technology I do see failures in leadership, management and delegation, and if what I see in this area of the business is reflected across the rest of the company, then heaven help them!
- High voltage PPE shared with the mechanical repair centre next door.
- No high voltage tools at all
- Technicians didn’t know who their first aider was and believed that they didn’t have a first aid trained person in their department
- Belief that EVERY high voltage vehicle had to be disconnected no matter what was being done on the vehicle.
- No system to lock out HV disconnect devices to prevent untrained or unauthorised reconnection of the vehicle, citing “what if we need to move the vehicle from panel shop to paint shop” as an excuse.
- No equipment to move an isolated vehicle around the business.
- No training or PPE for vehicle damage assessors - normally amongst the first person to go ‘hands on’ the vehicle.
- No system of identifying high voltage vehicles in the compound or in the workshop (warning signs or similar).
- Complete failure to identify high voltage responsibilities across the business - who is allowed to do what to a high voltage vehicle!
- No understanding of the additional fire risks that high voltage batteries bring
- Tools and PPE - do not share and get your own - this is especially important in the light of Covid-19 and sharing of high voltage gloves and saves the issue experienced when completing the HV training where the tools and PPE kit was in use elsewhere in the business when the practical assessment section of the training needed to be completed. Many collision repair centres do not understand the importance of correct refitting of high voltage components and the need to make certain everything is connected correctly, and where bolts or nuts have been removed that these are tightened to the correct torque.
Over-tightening can damage connections or terminals and any damage could result in increased resistance in the high voltage system - increased resistance will result in an increase in heat which could result in a fire. An insulated torque wrench is an essential part of any high voltage technicians tool kit along with full details of torque settings for all bolts or nuts that may have been disturbed during the work.
- First Aider - have a number within each department so there is cover if someone is away from the business and constantly train and refresh the knowledge.
- Training and awareness of electric and hybrid vehicles should be compulsory for all staff and not restricted to just the technicians, this way the management team can understand and assess risk, build processes and protocols, assign responsibilities and make certain that the correct tools and equipment are available for everyone.