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Old 02-25-10, 06:49 AM   #1
mechinator
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workshop health and safety

I'm concerned about the health effects of the substances bike mechanics are exposed to in the workshop.

The skin on your hands is exposed to oil and synthetic lubricants half the day, some have additives such as teflon. You spray aerosols such as disc brake cleaner which is so powerful it melts plastic - and inevitably breath it in too. Why about the orderless stuff you are unaware of breathing in? The use of compressed air will vaporise liquids into particle in the air which you breath and go in your eyes too. Grinding parts creates metallic dust particles, and the heat created causes coating such as paint and plastic to burn off and release toxic smoke particles into the air.

We cannot rely on employers or product companies to look out for our health.

Does anyone have any specific information on what is really hazardous to our health? Anyone got long term health problems associate with this type of work?

PLEASE DO NOT REPLY WITH OPINIONS. I want this to be a discussion and sharing of FACTS ONLY.

Thanks
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Old 02-25-10, 06:53 AM   #2
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are you trolling or what?

To answer your question however, yes, some precautions should be taken when working on certain repair proceedures. such as cutting carbon, aluminum or setting up hydraulic brakes or using petrol based lubes.

you might get better answers from auto mechanics, aeronautical mechanics and other such maintenance jobs, since they use even more toxic stuff than bike mechanics do.
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Old 02-25-10, 07:44 AM   #3
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We cannot rely on employers or product companies to look out for our health.
No, you cannot. Which is why you have legislation on the subject, to make it illegal for your employer to expose you to a known health risk without proper protective gear. If you really need FACTS on specific risks present at your workplace, you might want to consult your national institute of occupational health safety. They have research, publications and statistics available. To complement any anecdotal info you may get from strangers in an anonymous Internet forum discussion.

You ask about general "long term health problems", but seem to limit the discussion to chemical hazards? There are repetitive movements involved in all mechanical work, making it a easy to develop musculo-sceletoral disorders. I'm not sure how these are recognized or handled / compensated in the US. Also, there can be "typical" workshop problems such as shop floor being cluttered or slippery. In terms of number of cases (not severity), vast majority of work related health issues are simple accidents, not chronic occupational diseases resulting from a long term exposure to a causative agent. In Finland the overall ratio is roughly 30 accidents per one case of suspected occupational disease per year.

It's relatively easy and cheap to provide safe working environment, complete with proper tools, ergonomics and protective equipment where needed. It's more difficult for an employer to make sure every staff member's attitudes towards work safety are in par with the environment. This can be an issue in a bike shop like it often is an issue in larger manufacturing business. In fact, the one current "hot" work safety issue that is probably NOT present in a bike shop is having hordes of subcontractors operating in the same physical space or site, with little or no coordination with each other and often even lacking a common language to communicate with.

--J

(yes, my job is related to work safety issues)
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Old 02-25-10, 08:03 AM   #4
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The products themselves have instructions on proper use. They will say to use in a well ventillated area, use various forms of personal protective equipment (gloves, masks, goggles etc.). Commercial grade products should be shipped with an MSDS sheet detailing the precautions that should be taken.

As much as we'd like to say our safety is someone else's job, who better to look out for yourself than you.

Here, if you feel like a job is dangerous, you have every right to refuse to do it. If they fire you, you can take them to court for wrongful dismissal.
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Old 02-25-10, 09:03 AM   #5
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Any metallic dust created by bike mechanisms will be at a level too lower to consider. Well within the threshold of background dust in the air, so there's no hazard involved there. Those using bench grinders and other tools which create dust are advised to follow established industrial protocols for those tools.

That leaves the chemicals, which are potentially the most serious health hazard to professional mechanics, not counting chopping fingers off working with single speed and coaster brake chains. Every employer is required to have and make available a Material Safety Data Sheet aka MSDS for each of the chemicals and other potentially hazardous products used or stored in the shop. An MSDS details the known hazards, and safety precautions related to using and handling the products.

The MSDS for many lubricants and solvents clearly specify "use in well ventilated areas" and "do not aerosolize" two common sense protocols generally ignored by bike mechanics. The safety information is there and available and I suggest that those concerned (or who should be) take the time to read and understand it.

There are other standard shop practices often ignored by bike shop mechanics, where there's little or no formal training in the use of hand or power tools, nor a pattern of apprentiship, whereby knowledge from experience can be passed along.

However, I'd venture that if you reviewed workers compensation data, you'd find that the accident and injury rate for bike mechanics is very low, and most likely unsualy involves simple stuff like lifting injuries or tripping and falling down basement stairs.
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Old 02-25-10, 09:21 AM   #6
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Commercial grade products should be shipped with an MSDS sheet detailing the precautions that should be taken.

Material Safety Data Sheets should be available for all chemicals used at work. I just looked at the Finish Line website and could not find any MSDS info, though. I sent them a message asking how to tobtain MSDS. I also checked Phil Wood site and found nothing.

In a training course I took, I was told that the retailer should have available the MSDS for products they sell and give it to anyone requesting or indicating the product is for commercial use. I used to sell a lot of chemical bike products and I had never heard of an MSDS before I started working in the nuclear industry. I fear this might be common for bike types.

Edit: MSDSs are available on the Park Tool Website for their products:
http://www.parktool.com/products/category.asp?cat=82

Last edited by LarDasse74; 02-25-10 at 09:29 AM. Reason: Found mor info
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Old 02-25-10, 09:36 AM   #7
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Many of the sellers of bike lubes and cleanders are more focused on the retail end user where no MSDS is required. They might not want to have an MSDS link on their sites, where it might confuse or put off consumers.

However, they do maintain MSDS files, and have them available for their dealers. When I wholesaled lubes and solvents to bike shops, we took the active approach of sending shops packets of MSDS literature with their orders on a 3 year rotating basis. Many of them probably ended up in the trash, but at least we tried.

Under Federal law, and most State laws the employer has an active responsibility to maintain an MSDS file, and shouldn't be waiting for the manufacturer to send the various sheets.
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Old 02-25-10, 09:46 AM   #8
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are you trolling or what?.
He is, look at his other thread.

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Under Federal law, and most State laws the employer has an active responsibility to maintain an MSDS file, and shouldn't be waiting for the manufacturer to send the various sheets.
This is the same in Canada.
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Old 02-25-10, 09:48 AM   #9
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This is a pretty good troll I have to tell you.
Could be a troll, could be a liability lawyer building a case, or could be a mechanic worked up over possible hidden risks in his work.

Given that we don't know, and that many professional shop mechanics read forums, a bit of open discussion about occupational risk and good shop practice can't be bad. There's no way a troll, or lawyer will gain any advantage this way, that couldn't be had by other means.
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Old 02-25-10, 09:49 AM   #10
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Could be a troll, could be a liability lawyer building a case, or could be a mechanic worked up over possible hidden risks in his work.

Given that we don't know, and that many professional shop mechanics read forums, a bit of open discussion about occupational risk and good shop practice can't be bad. There's no way a troll, or lawyer will gain any advantage this way, that couldn't be had by other means.
Precisely what a troll does best. To make a thread look legitimate enough that dupes will answer. Lawyers don't post on bikeforums to build cases, seriously think about how absurd that is. Not going to matter anyways, this and his other thread is going to degenerate into mulitpage useless fests anyways.
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Old 02-25-10, 10:21 AM   #11
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look into "material safety data sheets" and OSHA recommendations

I used to work in a production environment and when I made my way into management I was able to change the 3wy we worked and stored the materials we used. I remember this one statement: "will cause central nervous system depression" and we were breathing that stuff in a small enclosed room!
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Old 02-25-10, 10:51 AM   #12
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Anyone who trusts their health to their employer is deluded.
I put 37 years in the chemical industry. Industrial coatings, organic dyes, heavy metals, etc. I worked with chemicals were at 5 ppm you could just smell them, at 8 ppm you were dead.

Even at home I carry over my years of chemical exposure training.
When working with something that creates any dust you wear a dust respirator. With solvent fumes or any kind of mist you wear a charcoal filter mask. Keep several types of rubber of PVC gloves on hand. Know which is suitable for what kind of work. These items are available at a lot of home centers or can be ordered off the Internet.

Chemical suppliers MSDS papers are usually rather "weak" on facts. OSHA or NIOSH MSDS papers are more detailed.
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