by Bob Beranek
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An important aspect of automotive glass installation that is overlooked at our peril is protection. Protection is a term that can be used in two different contexts. One, the protection against bodily injury and two, protecting the vehicle from possible damage during installation. Both are important steps for the well-being of the technician and the successful and profitable conclusion of the installation.

First, let’s talk about the protection of the technician. Done right, automotive glass installation should not be a particularly dangerous endeavor. Yes, we can cut ourselves and need a few stitches, strain our muscles or get slivers of glass in our fingers, but unlike our sister industry, glazing, we will not lose our lives by falling from tall buildings or sever a hand or arm due to glass fracturing. The most dangerous part of our job is driving from point A to point B. However, none of us want any kind of pain or injury if we can help it. We want to go on day after day and produce the work that gives us a pay check that allows us to enjoy life. To make that wish possible, we have to pay attention and do what we can to protect ourselves.

I have been putting in automotive glass for a long time. I have cut myself three times to the point of stitches being needed. For a glass technician, that is not too bad. How I managed to (mostly) save my own skin is through the use of personal protective equipment, as religiously as I can. The protective equipment includes:

  • Safety glasses;
  • Safety gloves;
  • Safety shoes;
  • Nitrile gloves; and
  • Forearm protectors.

Do I forget sometimes? Of course I do. How do you think I cut myself three times? However, when I catch myself not wearing the equipment, I stop and purposely make a point to correct the oversight. This is how good habits are developed and practiced.

Many times injuries are not noticed in the short term and can sneak up on you over time. This is usually caused by actions that are not “ergonomic.” Ergonomics is a science that deals with designing and arranging the items in a work environment so that people can use them easily and safely. Unfortunately, automotive glass technicians don’t usually get to design our environment. We must act on what is presented to us and choose the best course of action to successfully complete the job with the tools we have available to us.

In the past, there were not many options available. We used manual caulk guns that caused carpal tunnel syndrome. We used our heads to push out on the glass so we could cut the lower bead causing lower back pain. We contorted our bodies to set the glass in the opening causing muscle strain. We crawled up on large vehicles to access the windshield area causing slippage and possible injury. All of these issues have been addressed with new modern tools that can help alleviate these possible injuries. All we have to do is acquire the tools and use them.

Protection from injury starts with the technician. The owner can supply all the safety equipment and tools out there, but if the tech doesn’t use them, they will not help. Don’t shorten your career because of pain and discomfort. Use the tools and wear the protection.

Next week I’ll talk about protecting the vehicle.