Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2003   by Jim Anderson,Editor

Engineering for Technicians’ Safety

This month's SSGM features a story on page 32 that isn't pretty. It's about Jon Pysh, a technician that suffered serious burns during a routine fuel tank job, the kind that goes on often in every shop...

This month’s SSGM features a story on page 32 that isn’t pretty. It’s about Jon Pysh, a technician that suffered serious burns during a routine fuel tank job, the kind that goes on often in every shop in the country. Its disturbing reading for anyone that’s ever handled a fuel tank full of gas and vapours. As I read the piece, I thought about the insanity of fuel tanks that have both anti-siphon screens and no drain plugs. Then I remembered how nervous I often feel testing steering column circuits with an airbag next to my head. Sure it’s disabled, but you’re there for a short circuit, so who knows? As a teenager, I tried to remove a Turbo Hydramatic by balancing it on a floor jack. Naturally, it fell off, but I managed to save the pan by getting a few of my ribs between it and the floor. I still ache when it rains. And regular readers might remember when I wrote about cracking my head on a welded floor pan seam during a fuel pump change. Unfortunate accidents happen most often because of unsafe procedures, carelessness, fatigue, bad luck or a number of other causes, but it’s troubling when the design of the vehicle is part of the problem. In my opinion, fuel tank drains should be mandatory, or anti-siphon screens should be removed, especially in this age of in-tank pumps. Air bags should have circuit-breakers or lockout devices that allow a tech to obviously safe the pyrotechnics no matter how damaged the wiring harness. I once toured an aviation museum, and saw a 1950’s-era jet that had pins with flags reading “Remove Before Flight” on the ejection seat. It’s an idea that might work to lock out air bags, too. “Lever-vent” rad caps are a good idea. And how about fuel pressure test/relief ports that don’t spray a shot of fuel into your face? Strut suspensions are another worry. Is it absolutely necessary to design suspensions that can’t be disassembled without spring compressors? And how about bellhousing-to-block dowels that are a couple of inches long? I’d certainly have better-looking fingertips. Belt tensioners and fan blades both made Band-Aid rich, and I’ve never changed a speedo cable without leaving a little “AB-negative” to colour the surroundings. Door lock solenoids and window regulators are usually located where the raw edges stamped into the door panel can seriously scrape your forearm. The new low-profile tires are adding a new element of risk to the traditionally entry-level job of tire busting. I’ve seen apprentices adding 100 psi to seat a 40-series performance radial. I figured it was perfect moment to step outside for some fresh air. I’ll admit that in most cases, safety is in the control of the tech, but ABS, traction control, seat belts, air bags and dual braking circuits were designed to protect motorists. How about a little technology to protect the tech? Compared to the cost of, say, ABS, a fuel tank drain plug isn’t going to break the bank.

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