Safety Devices are Designed to be Used, Not By-passed
By Universal Underwriters Group's Loss Prevention Department

"Silence gives consent." As a statement regarding communication, this quote speaks volumes. When communication is centered in the workplace and focused on safety, the effect of silence can be dangerous and costly. Management should speak out when unsafe practices are observed and be proactive in encouraging safe work habits. On the subject of safety, silence implies consent for unsafe behavior.

Regardless of how much faster or easier the employee believes he or she can do the job without using safety devices, the slight gain in speed or convenience is absolutely, positively not worth the risk. Just ask the service tech who had his foot crushed or another who had his finger severed. Both of these men by-passed the safety devices on their lifts by tying the lift controls in the open position. That second or two of time they saved no doubt seems a little less valuable to them now.

Lifts Are Only One Example, But a Good One.

The "Lifting it Right" manual of the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) states: "The lift operator must be in control of the lift while it is in motion. Do not block open or override the self-closing feature of the lift controls." This would seem to be an embarrassingly obvious directive, akin to "Do not block open or override the self-closing feature of the gas pedal." And yet, we continue to observe lift controls and mechanical locking devices (safety locks) tied in the open position with wire hooks, rubber bands and bungee cords.

Faster? Maybe. But Never Worth the Risk.

Aside from the risk of real, indelible human suffering when safety devices are by-passed, there is also a risk of OSHA citations and substantial fines. According to OSHA, inspectors are trained to "go to the manual" when inspecting safety devices. They will use the manufacturer's installation and operating instructions, as well as safety manuals such as ALl's, to prove that a device exists for a safety purpose and that purpose has been by-passed. The maximum fine for willful by-passing of a safety device is $70,000.

Zero Tolerance is One Manager's Answer

One manager told us that he has zero tolerance for by-passing lift controls. Someone does that in his shop and they are subject to termination. Period. You might think that sounds extreme and you'd lose some of your best employees if you took that approach. But there's more than one service tech in the country who probably wishes his manager hadn't settled for less. Don't let your silence give consent to unsafe work behavior. Hold a meeting about lift safety today.

Lift Safety Tips

1. Operating controls are designed to close when released. Do not block open or override them.

2. Mechanical locking (safety catch) devices help to prevent the vehicle from falling while you're working underneath it. They are there to protect you, always use them and never override them.

3. Inspect your lift daily. Never operate it with broken or damaged parts such as lift arms that are cracked, bent or will not lock into place. Also look for chains and cables that are slack, deformed, corroded, cut, bent or excessively worn.

4. Do not modify the lift with components not approved by the manufacturer.

5. Never overload your lift. The manufacturer's rated capacity is shown on a nameplate fastened to the lift.

6. Always check to make sure the vehicle is not loaded with materials that might cause it to tip when raised.

7. Always keep the lift area free of obstructions, grease, oil, trash and other debris. Look around you before carefully driving on or off the lift.

8. Before driving the vehicle over the lift, position arms and supports to provide unobstructed clearance. Do not hit or run over lift arms, adapters or axle supports.

9. Load vehicle on the lift carefully. Position lift supports to contact at the vehicle manufacturer's recommended lifting points. Raise lift until supports contact vehicle and check supports for secure contact with vehicle. Raise the vehicle approximately one foot off the ground and shake it by pushing gently on the front or rear bumper to make sure it is stable. Raise the lift to the desired working height and engage locking device.

10. Always remember that the removal or installation of vehicle components may cause a critical shift in the center of gravity resulting in vehicle instability.

Gerry Cecil is the National Account Executive for the Special Account Services division of Universal Underwriters Group. For more information about how Universal Underwriters Group, Special Account Services can help your automotive recycling business needs call 800-840-8842, ext. 4845, visit or e-mail:

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