Safety is something we talk about with customers every single day. But while we quite routinely focus on other people’s safety, we’re not as good at worrying about our own.
Take the recent concern about asbestos in auto parts. Most of the talk I’ve heard about it has come from associations and manufacturers. Very little has come from the shop floor, where the dangers of asbestos are most potent.
Asbestos used to be common in construction materials and auto parts largely because of its ability to distribute heat. It was eventually banned from use in North American manufacturing because of its association with deadly diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Nevertheless, it still comes into the country – in growing volumes – embedded in imported parts like brakes, clutches, hoodliners, gaskets, heat seals, valve rings and packing materials.
Statistics Canada reports imports of asbestos-related imports is growing – valued at $6 million in 2015, up substantially from $4.9 million in 2013.
There is clearly a demand for cheap, asbestos-riddled brake linings and pads, often shipped as “white box” second-line parts from offshore sources.
Are you buying those pads? You shouldn’t be!
You may be saving your customers some money but it comes at a cost. You’re putting them and your employees at great risk.
Your technicians are exposed to asbestos when they clean, grind, or install brake parts. The contaminated dust can be seen whenever a brake disk, drum, clutch cover, or wheel is removed. When you clean the vehicle or sweep the floor, you could be polluting the air with extremely dangerous asbestos dust particles.
Government health and safety associations have written “work safe” guidelines to protect technicians from asbestos dust. They suggest things like improving ventilation in the shop, wearing positive-pressure respirator, and keeping hair and clothes covered.
But there’s a simpler way to reduce your exposure. Stop buying parts that could contain asbestos!
How do you know if the part you’re buying contains asbestos? Any reputable manufacturer will be able to answer that question. And if your suppliers don’t know the answer, they should be able to find it. If they can’t, that’s a huge red flag.
“Nationwide, thousands of people die each year because of exposure to asbestos,” says Jean-Francois Champagne, president of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada. “Worker safety is a priority for AIA’s members and it is our position that the automotive industry should work towards an asbestos-free industry.”
Everyone’s saying the right things – governments included – but it could be some time before legislators ban the importation of asbestos-contaminated goods, and even longer before you can be reasonably sure you’re not being exposed to asbestos when you buy white-box parts.
The Canadian government has not yet prevented the importation of asbestos-laden products, but we can certainly reduce the demand for them! Their presence in our workplaces is wholly unacceptable.
Make sure that the parts you bring into your shop, and install on customer vehicles do not contain this insidious ingredient. Saving a few bucks is not worth the risk!
Click here if you want to know more about the impact of asbestos and what Canadians are doing to fight it.