Workshop Safety Guide
A safe, clean, well-illuminated workshop can make the difference between an exciting mechanical endeavor and a tedious, filthy, time-consuming undertaking. Plan ahead! Organize your workshop before you begin your project.
Carelessness, mixed with a bit of gasoline, can spell disaster. The resulting inferno can incinerate your MG, your house, and kill you. To be caught in a spreading gasoline fire is beyond your most hideous fears. Several common sense steps can reduce the danger of a fire while you work on your MG:
Store dirty oily rags in a sealed container or laid out, but not in a pile.
NEVER use a torch near a petrol tank!
Store gasoline in a proper red container with caps. Dispose of old gasoline or old oil in a sealed container.
Keep your trouble light FAR AWAY from any source of dripping gasoline (as a fuel pump or fuel sending unit). In fact, it is safest not to use the trouble light at all when working on the fuel system, under the MG.
NEVER use gasoline to clean parts. Use kerosene (paraffin) or mineral spirits.
ALWAYS have a fire extinguisher at arm’s length whenever working on the fuel system — under the rear end or under the bonnet.
If you do have a fire, DON’T PANIC! Use the fire extinguisher effectively.
JACKS and JACKSTANDS
Any jack, especially the factory jack for the MGB and Midget, is made for lifting the MG, not for supporting it. NEVER consider working under your MG using only a jack to support the weight of the car. Remember:
Jacks are for lifting.
Jack stands are for supporting.
Jack stands are available from many discount stores and all auto parts stores. These stands are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL if you plan to work on an elevated MG. Simple triangular stand (fixed or adjustable) will suit almost all of your working situations. Drive-up ramps are very limited because of their design and size. NEVER use cement blocks to support the MG!
When lifting the MG, jack the car from the “FRONT FIRST.” Leave the gearbox in neutral, brakes off, jack the front to the desired height, and put the stands in place, either under the frame or under the suspension. Then engage the handbrake and block the rear wheels. DO NOT leave the MG in gear if the rear wheels are on the ground.
Should the starter be engaged in error, or accidentally, the MG will jump off those stands and onto you! If the MG is in gear and/or the brakes are on when you jack up the front end, the jack will be forced to tip. This is an unavoidable situation when the MG is jacked on its side, and in this case the use of the handbrake is recommended.
When returning the MG to the ground, jack the “BACK DOWN” before the front.
Excellent jacking points are:
The front cross member (never the engine’s sump).
The center of the differential. On the T types, use a piece of wood with a hole drilled to accept the drain plug.
Under the center of either leaf spring.
Under the spring pan at the front corners.
In the case of the factory jack (MGB and Midget), use this jack ONLY for emergencies or for show. Always use a scissors jack, screw jack, or hydraulic jack for maintenance work.
Line voltage can kill a person, especially if they are standing on a cement floor. Ensure that your electrical receptacles are fitted with Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) switches. These switches measure the current flowing into and out of the appliance or tool used and shut off if there is a difference between these values (for instance, if some of the electricity is passing through you to ground!). These switches, while moderately expensive, are designed to save your life. They can be installed at each receptacle, or all receptacles can be wired through one unit. No home workshop should be without them.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that starves the human body for oxygen. It’s a killer. Running an MG in a closed environment is a one-way ticket out of this life. Either run the MG outside, leave the
garage door fully open or vent the exhaust out of the garage through an exhaust rubber tube. There are more important things to die for.
CLEANLINESS and CLUTTER
A clean workshop is a safe workshop. The list of dangerous situations is unending. Leave room to walk; ensure the floors are unobstructed; sweep up dirt, rust, and grease; wipe up any water, antifreeze, oil, or gasoline spills; don’t block off exits; leave the ceiling free from dangling obstructions; keep electrical cords to a minimum. If you have to exit your workshop in haste, there’s no substitute for a clean, direct path.
A dark workshop is a dangerous workshop. Before beginning on a big project or turning your family garage into an enthusiast’s workshop, ensure that you have plenty of light. Double bulb florescent fixtures are truly inexpensive, easy to hang, and cost pennies to operate.
In a dark environment your quick reach for a tool or part can jam your hand into something other than intended. Careful work demands plenty of light. Light is healthy, it even makes you feel better.
Storage batteries are bombs waiting to explode –and when they do, they spew sulphuric acid everywhere. When charging or jumping, eliminate the chances or sparks by making slow, careful connections. Instead of making both connections at the battery, make one at the battery and the other at a ground location at some distance from the battery. This greatly reduces the chance of sparks at the battery. ALWAYS avert your face when disconnecting.
Tow with chain or very thick rope (with hooks). Make no sudden accelerations or stops. The driver in the front must signal to the driver in back to stop, as the towed vehicle does the braking. Drive CAREFULLY, slowly, and with anticipation. Connect the chain to the rear of the leaf springs; and to the inside of the A arms. Do not connect the towed vehicle by the rack and pinion or tie rods! Do not tow an MG with wire wheels by the rear end – the backwards motion of the wheels will cause the spinners to loosen and unscrew.
Compressed air is a real help in any shop. It should, at low pressure, be required in all new housing! But it comes with dangers. Used to separate hydraulic cylinders, the pistons can develop huge forces and have been known to fly at high speed across the shop, leaving a trail of brake fluid in their wake. It should NEVER be pointed at another person.
CLOTHING and PROTECTIVE APPAREL
Wear clothing that protects you and avoid any clothing that could entangle you. Loose clothing, long hair, and dangling strings are potential dangers — they can get caught in the moving engine or in power equipment! Button up your sleeve cuffs and get rid of anything that dangles! Tennis shoes or sneakers do not protect the toes. Find heavy boots or steel toed shoes that afford some protection. Use ear muffs or ear plugs during noisy operations. Permanent hearing loss from power tools is very common. Always wear goggles or safety glasses to protect your eyes. Cover your head, eyes, and ears with a hood while welding.
There are many toxic substances present when working on your MG. Some can cause immediate irritation, such as cleaning solvents. Others can cause long term damage, like asbestos. READ the labels on the products you are using. Be aware of the chemicals present and what dangers they pose.
- Flammable: easily catches fire and tends to burn rapidly, such as paint thinners and cleaning solvents.
- Corrosive: a chemical or vapors that can cause destruction, such as battery acid, floor cleaners, caustic paint strippers and aluminum cleaners.
- Reactive: chemicals can cause hazardous reactions, gaseous vapors, or explosions if combined with other substances (ammonia, peroxide, bleach.)
- Toxic: Concentrated chemicals that leach into groundwater at landfills, such as benzene, lead batteries and paint, and mercury batteries.
There are three primary ways chemicals and toxins enter the body. The nose inhales gases, mists, or particles that are in the air. The mouth makes contact with chemicals that have spilled or transferred onto food, beverages, cigarettes, facial hair, or hands. The skin and eyes are very sensitive to chemicals, whether by direct contact or airborne fumes. Chemicals can cause permanent damage to the brain, liver, kidneys, lungs, and central nervous system. Better safe than sorry!
Protect yourself with safety gear like goggles, masks, gloves, coveralls, etc. Wash your work clothes separate from other laundry. When working with or around chemicals, make sure there’s adequate ventilation and have an evacuation plan in case of emergency. Access to a designated sink, eye wash station, or shower is also recommended.
Protect our environment by disposing of toxic substances in the proper manner. Don’t dump old oil and antifreeze into the ground!
Whether you are doing some minor repair, maintenance, or a complete restoration, your home workshop should be a safe, clean, well-lit, pleasant place to work. Give plenty of thought to organization, lights, wall receptacles, tools, access, and safety BEFORE beginning your project.