This checklist and guidebook highlight important or key environmental requirements for automotive repair shops and service stations as they apply to the various federal environmental programs. The guidebook includes topics like waste disposal, MSDS's, spill prevention, USTs, motor vehicle air conditioning including retrofitting motor vehicle air conditioning units and the use of alternative refrigerants, reminders for new construction, weed killer use, insect spray or restroom cleaners and disinfectants around the shop. Automotive shop owners can use the checklist and guidebook to evaluate your facility's compliance with the federal environmental regulations which are applicable to the automotive service and repair industry. If problems with compliance are discovered while completing the checklist, you may want to conduct a more comprehensive self-audit.
Please remember that this checklist and guidebook are a beginning, not the final word, on environmental compliance requirements. While federal environmental requirements are highlighted in the checklist and guidebook, a comprehensive discussion of all requirements is NOT included. In addition to federal requirements, you may be subject to state, tribal, and/or local requirements. You should use this information to build a basic understanding of federal environmental requirements, and then seek additional assistance from various federal, state, tribal, and local agencies.
Automotive body and refinishing workers have the potential to be exposed to many hazards. Chemical hazards may include sanding dusts containing metals, solvents, paints and cleaners. Physical hazards may include cutting and sanding tools, noise, repetitive stress, and uneven or slippery floor surfaces. Employers and workers benefit from integrating health and safety practices into the workplace. Implementing effective health and safety programs can reduce the risk of employee accidents, save money and improve employee morale. For OSHA Safety issues, see: Safety issues in an auto shop: "Managing Worker Health and Safety: An Auto Refinish Shop Success Story"
Both employers and workers have roles in eliminating potential hazards to keep their workplace safe. The resources in this fact sheet contain information to explain regulatory requirements, define worker and employer responsibilities, and show how to practice health and safety as part of daily work routines. The guidance is available on-line as well as paper copies that you can request from the appropriate agency. For more information, contact the agency; phone numbers and web sites are listed at the end of this fact sheet.
Workers are responsible for following site safety rules, attending training, wearing personal protective equipment when needed, and maintaining a safe work area. Workers can eliminate or reduce possible exposures to hazardous chemicals by following safe work practices for each shop task they do. Employers are responsible for maintaining a safe work place, including providing information, training and equipment to workers to prevent injury and illness.
Workers need to identify and understand the hazards of the chemicals they work with such as paints, thinners, and cleaning solvents. Employers are required to provide worker training on how to find, read and understand Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and product labels. Employees are responsible for reading and understanding the MSDS for the products they use. An on-line resource from University of Missouri, Understanding MSDS, explains how to use the MSDS.
MSDS for products that you use should be provided by the vendor who supplies the products you use. There are on-line resources where you can search for product or chemical MSDS. See this page for alisting of MSDS sorted by manufacturer
In addition to MSDS, there are other sources of information on chemical hazards. The Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS) provides information on some specific chemical hazards in auto body and paint shops. HESIS is a joint program by the state Department of Health Services and the Department of Industrial Relations that provides current information to workers, employers and others about workplace chemical hazards. Fact sheets summarizing health effects and how to protect your health are available for the following chemical compounds typically found in auto body and paint shops:
The HESIS web site has guidance on Using solvents safely and Aerosol cleaner use in auto repair.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a federal agency that helps assure safe and healthful working conditions. They conduct research and provide information, education, and training in workplace safety and health. NIOSH provides information on many health and safety topics including information on several hundred chemicals found in the workplace in the NIOSH pocket guide. The guide provides key information to help users recognize and protect themselves from workplace chemical hazards.
Choosing the Right Gloves for Painting Cars (EPA/744-F-00-005), June 2000, 2 pages
PDF version of Choosing the Right Gloves for Painting Cars (92 KB)
This fact sheet provides practical information and advice to guide shops from conventional to best practices.
Employers are required to have programs for employees to prevent illness and injury on the job. Everyone benefits from work place safety and health training. Effective workplace health and safety programs result in fewer worker accidents and illnesses which reduces costs for employers. A good guide is available from the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) provides a Guide to Developing Your Workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Program to help employers provide a safe workplace and reduce losses from accidents and illnesses.
US EPA Design for Environment (DfE) Automotive Refinishing Partnership has worked with refinishing shops to develop helpful checklists and guidance documents. A general health and safety checklist for the auto body shop is available from DfE.
Safety and health training is one of the most important parts of your Injury and Illness Prevention Program. OSHA's small business training topics can be used to develop a worker training program. Topics include personal protective equipment, flammable liquids, lockout/tagout, and emergency response. Materials include instruction guides, student handouts, and self-inspection checklists for each training topic.
Set up tailgate/toolbox safety meetings as part of your Injury and Illness Prevention program. Tailgate safety meetings are regularly scheduled, short meetings that can be used to address actual health and safety concerns in the shop and current industry safety topics.
In most states, all employers, regardless of size, whose employees may be exposed to hazardous substances such as automotive paint, solvent and thinner products are required to have a written Hazard Communication Plan. Cal/OSHA enforces Hazard Communication regulations in California and provides a Guide to the California Hazard Communication Regulation and on-site assistance to help businesses implement the required programs.
Almost all auto body shops generate hazardous waste and their employees are required to be trained in proper waste handling and emergency procedures. Most shops generate less than 1000 kg/month (about 2200 lbs/month) and are required to ensure that employees have knowledge of proper waste handling and emergency procedures. Shops that generate more than1000 kg/month have additional requirements including employee training and recordkeeping. The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) Hazardous Waste Generator Requirements fact sheet includes information on worker training requirements (section F, page 5.)
Sanding and painting are shop activities that require workers to wear respiratory protection. Employers need to be familiar with the requirements in the respirator regulation, including program administration, employee medical testing, annual fit testing, training, and other requirements. Cal/OSHA enforces the regulation and provides an overview of how to set up a workplace respiratory protection program.
The DfE Respiratory Protection Program For Auto Refinishing, is a template of a program that you can use to develop a respiratory protection program for your refinishing shop.
Safety and Health Agencies
If you are not sure about your state and/or local environmental requirements, contact your state and local environmental office. These offices can be found in the Blue Pages of your local telephone directory. If you do not know who to contact, you might consider the CCAR-GreenLink® Compliance Assistance Center. CCAR-GreenLink® is a partnership between the EPA and the Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR). CCAR is an automotive industry organization whose mission is to augment the professionalism of automotive technicians.
There are several ways to reach CCAR-GreenLink®:
CCAR-GreenLink® Toll-Free: 1-888-GRN-LINK (476-5465)