Automotive service technicians (mechanics) work on cars and trucks to ensure they are operating efficiently. Their duties include diagnosing, repairing, adjusting, and overhauling engines, batteries, spark plugs, and other components that make the vehicle run.
However, there are significant health issues most mechanic face in their day-to-day operation when working in a garage or out in the field. Serious short-term risks include eye damage, hand injuries and exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins. Long-term risks involved joint and knee injuries, lower back pain, physical strain, loss of hearing, and exposure to lead dust, fumes, solvents, and asbestos, and in rare cases, wrongful death.
Other serious concerns when working on vehicles include being struck by objects, injuries associated with lifting heavy objects, fire, and respiratory problems due to a lack of sufficient ventilation.
If you or a family member was injured while working as an auto mechanic, you are likely entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free review of your legal rights and options.
Common Work-Related Injuries
Statistics show that injury rates on mechanics in the Chicago area are significantly higher than the national average. While automotive repair can be highly lucrative, it is potentially dangerous even in a safe working environment. The most common problems every mechanic face in their day-to-day operations include:
- Eye Damage – Auto mechanics routinely use heavy, powerful equipment, especially in auto body shops to perform metalwork and engine rebuilds. The machinery often runs at high-speed where components and tiny metal shavings can easily become airborne. The mechanic must wear eye protection to reduce the potential risk of suffering a life-altering injury.
- Hand Injury – Typically, the hands of a mechanic are exposed to extremely hot auto parts, moving equipment, spinning tools, and abrasive chemicals. Wearing protective gloves is imperative to protect the skin from any accident that could cause cuts, bruises, chemical burns, crushing injuries and other wounds.
- Joint and Knee Injuries – Lifting heavy objects, standing for extended periods of time, and working in odd postures for minutes or hours at a time can cause significant knee and joint injuries. Typically, the worker is unaware of bone and joint damage until much later in life.
- Chemical Inhalation – There are life-threatening chemicals in nearly every type of automotive repair shop. These chemicals are found in various liquids including anti-freeze, brake fluid, paint, and others. The toxic fumes and dangerous liquids can damage the eyes, burn the skin, and irritate the lung. Also, many auto mechanics are surrounded by carbon monoxide fumes while the vehicle is running during testing.
- Loss of Hearing – The mechanized equipment used in many auto repair shops create sounds at a level of 90 dB or higher. Without ear protection, the mechanic can experience detectable hearing loss after just a few years of working in a loud shop.
- Falling Objects – Equipment, materials, or car parts can injure the auto shop worker when the object is lifted in the place. The mechanic should never allow any visitor or vehicle owner into the work area to avoid the potential of a non-employee being injured by falling objects or components to maximize a safe environment.
- Physical Strains – Throughout a typical workday, mechanics will lift and install heavy equipment, car parts, and components. To perform their duties, the mechanic must bend over, kneel, lie on their back, or perform other physical activity that places stress and strain on their back, shoulders, muscles, hips, legs, and neck. While the physical demands are easy to adapt to in the early years, the effects of subsequent strains on the mechanic's body can take a toll in later years.
- Safety Concerns – Nearly every auto shop is an unsafe environment where even a simple error could claim the life of the mechanic or someone else. Mechanics use dangerous tools when working that can easily cause deep lacerations, cuts, scrapes, abrasions, or broken fingers and toes. Mechanics are often exposed to the burning effects of battery acid or work around liquids including hydraulic fluid, coolant, and hot oil. An improperly wired electrical circuit can kill the mechanic by electrocution.
- Exposure to Asbestos – Many auto parts are still manufactured asbestos fibers and material even though the material has long been linked to deadly mesothelioma and other respiratory cancers. The deadly fibers are found in brake linings, clutches, and other components that must resist heat. A long-term exposure without respiratory protection can lead to the inhalation of asbestos fibers that over time could cause serious breathing problems. Other serious materials that cause similar problems include:
- Antiknock Agents – Mechanics often use anti-knock agents to improve the vehicle’s fuel efficiency and ensure that the engine is running smoother than normal. However, anti-knock agents are formulated with MMT (methylpentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl) that is known to be harmful to human health and cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, and eye irritations. Extended use can result in kidney and liver malfunctions.
- Manganese – Welders and auto mechanics are known to develop health issues involving the central nervous system when the toxic substance is inhaled into the lungs and makes its way to the bloodstream.
- Exposure to Fumes and Lead Dust – Exposure to harmful chemicals could produce chronic poisoning when working with lubricants, paints, radiators, batteries, and welding equipment. Medical science has yet to create a cure for lead poisoning when the body absorbs the metal through the skin or inhalation. Even minimal exposure can lead to neurological damage and life-threatening lung problems. Mechanics exposed to lead poisoning could experience nausea, muscle pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, constipation, or depression.
- Exposure to Exhaust Fumes and Solvents – Many solvents are derived from benzene and other toxic materials. Some mechanics develop organic brain damage when inhaling exhaust fumes in their work environment. Diesel exhaust fumes typically contain small particles that can be inhaled easily and deposit on the tissue lining of the lungs. Often, doctors will misdiagnose the short-term health problems associated with fume exposure. Mechanics often experience the sensation of lightheadedness, vomiting, eye irritation, headaches, numbness, throat, and nose problems, wheezing, and chest tightness.
Who is Likely Responsible?
Auto shop owners are responsible for maximizing safety protocols to protect every individual in the working environment. The first step required involves installing a proper ventilation structure that exhausts harmful gases away from the area. Overexposure to harmful chemicals and irritants that can become airborne might cause skin irritations, chemical burns, poisoning, malfunctioning lungs, nervous system and kidneys, eye damage, and hearing loss. A correlation exists between congenital disabilities in the mechanic’s offspring and exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins.
Comparing Auto Mechanic Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment statistics of the previous year, there were 15,040 automotive mechanics at work in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that auto mechanics in northeastern Illinois earned $22.37 per hour, or $46,540 annually, on average. These earning wages are significantly higher than the national averages. See Chart
Auto Mechanic Job-Related Fatalities
Like most dangerous occupations where the workers are exposed to hazardous conditions, many mechanics have died prematurely due to an accident at work or through exposure to harmful substances. Below are two cases of dangerous accidents that led to a loss of life.
- Case 1: Los Angeles California, April 26, 2011 – On a Wednesday morning at approximately 11:00 AM, a mechanic was severely burned over 95% of his body “when the gasoline he was pouring ignited. He died the hospital the next day from his injuries despite medical intervention."
The investigator determined that “the company did not have a written safety program or an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. The automotive repair shop had no job training that provided safety [education] to employees in English or Spanish. The owner stated that he held undocumented, informal weekly safety training sessions." When the investigation concluded, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) revealed the contributing factors and provided various recommendations to create a safe environment.
- Case 2: Richmond Virginia – An unexpected mishap in an auto repair shop killed a Richmond Virginia auto mechanic in December 2017. A minivan slipped off an elevated lift and fell on Hilmar Lopez, trapping the mechanic. Both the police and fire department responded to the 911 call. The mechanic had worked at the repair shop for many years. He leaves behind his wife and two grown children.
- Case 3: Newark, New Jersey – Gabriel Feliciano Gomez lost his life on December 23, 2015, when a Mercedes slipped off the lift and trapped the auto mechanic underneath. The accident left Gomez with severe injuries. Paramedics rushed the victim to Newark University Hospital in critical condition, where he later succumbed to his injuries that day. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) began an investigation into the incident.
- Case 4: Virginia Beach, Virginia – An unexpected freak accident claimed the life of a 54-year-old Maaco repair shop employee when an SUV slipped off an auto lift. EMT was dispatched to the facility to perform a technical rescue. Upon arriving, they discovered James Harder deceased from an apparent crushing injury after an SUV fell on top of the victim. Early investigations failed to reveal what exactly caused the vehicle to fall. Some speculate user error in failing to ensure safety locks were in place or possibly malfunctioning locks.
- Case 5: Hialeah, Florida – An airbag inflator that ruptured while the car was being repaired is thought to have contributed to a man’s death. The victim used a hammer to perform repairs inside a 2001 Honda Accord while the ignition switch was on. Early investigations have yet to reveal factors behind the airbag’s deployment, but the photographs taken by the police show the “metal inflator ruptured and shot out fragments."
- Case 6: Fremont, Ohio – A freak accident claimed the life of a 44-year-old auto mechanic in July 2014 while he was working on the vehicle inside a local automotive repair shop. Paramedics declared the victim dead at the scene of the accident. The mechanic had been performing automotive repairs in the 1972 four-door Buick sedan when the accident occurred.
The mechanic was revving the gas while leaning over the engine when it backfired. During the incident, the backfire released five aluminum blades when the fan broke apart, striking the victim in the neck. Witnesses at the scene of the accident saw the mechanic walking backward from the Buick while clutching his neck. Before collapsing, the victim lost a significant amount of blood. The victim’s body was transported to the coroner’s office in Lucas County for an autopsy.
We can Assist You in Filing a Compensation Claim
Did you suffer an injury at work or become ill from a related hazard associated with your job? You may be worrying about how you will provide the necessities and pay the family’s bills during the days, months or years of your recovery. You may believe that you are too sick or ill to ever return to work and fear that you will lose your family home, the car, and your ability to provide for your loved ones in the future.
Our lawyers help injured Auto Mechanics and Body Shop Workers recover financial compensation through civil lawsuits and the IL Worker’s Compensation Act. Call today to schedule a Free Case Review to discuss your case.
You may have no idea where to turn to recover financially from your occupational injury. However, many individuals just like you have been in the same situation in the past and sought counsel and advice of a reputable personal injury attorney. Our law firm has assisted thousands of injured victims in nearly every occupation, and our attorneys can help your family too. Retaining our reputable personal injury attorneys will allow you to recover from your injuries while we successfully resolve your case on your behalf.
Contact An Auto Mechanic Workers Compensation & Injury Law Firm
You are not required to make any upfront payment to receive immediate legal services. Signing the agreement provides access to our services while your legal fees are postponed until after our attorneys have successfully resolved your case. Our work includes filing your claim, gathering evidence, building a case, and taking your lawsuit to trial or negotiating an out of court settlement. Be assured; if we do not win your case, you owe us nothing!