Home | FAQ | Forum | Swap Meet | Gallery | Tech Tips | Events | Features | Search | Hoo-ya Shop


By Tony Pascarella

    Whether you are a seasoned and experienced restorer, or new to the old truck restoration hobby, you should always practice safety in the shop. The following story and safety primer should help the novice as well as the expert remember that safety is Job 1 in the shop -- always!


A true story

Not all old truck stories have happy endings...

    A difficult story to tell, by Barry Weeks.

    "We have all tried to forget about this, but we remember it everyday. 'Jonesey' was a great guy who lived on a small 40-acre hobby farm. He and his wife were fixing up the old farmhouse and barn. They gave the place a name: Dunmovin' Acres. It was their dream place, and they were done moving. She had horses and boarded a few. He had his old trucks and tractors and room for them. He was a draftsman/designer at a tool & die company, was very talented and could do most anything.

    "One Thursday night afterwork, I was rushing to load the truck so we could go out of town. The whole Jonesey family (Dad, mom, son and daughter) came through the gas station across the street from our house. Jonesey stopped in front of my driveway and was waving: 'Hey,come here, I gotta tell you about something.' I waved him off. 'No, I'm too busy to BS now, I'll stop over after the week-end,' I told him.

    "I never saw him alive again.

    "That Saturday, he decided work on his old truck (a '49 Ford 1/2-ton). He was taking the carb. or fuel pump off and gas started leaking in the garage. He pushed the truck back out of the garage onto the apron, but it must've started rolling down the driveway and he ran around the front to stop it. He left skid marks in the dirt where he tried to stop it. It finally stopped when it hit a fence post where the driveway curved. He was between the truck and the post. His 4-yr. old daughter was home with daddy and was able to make the 911 call, 'Please help my daddy.'

    "The authorities found his wife out on her rural mail route and got her to the hospital just before he died of massive internal injuries. The funeral was not fun. I think he was only about 31 at the time.

    "Hardly a day goes by that I don't wish I would've taken the time to talk to Jonesey that Thursday night I saw him last. We were just getting to be buddies. I did see his son at a swap meet this fall. He is now 16, and has his driver's license. Seemed like he is a real decent person, just like his dad was. I would guess that someday when his Mom sees fit, he will be given his dad's old Ford pick-up. I hope he enjoys it as much as his dad did, but safely."

    Thank you, Barry

A Shop Safety Primer

       We all know that working on our old trucks is dangerous! But sometimes, either through lack of knowledge or complacency, that danger can rise up and strike even the most competant and skilled restorer. Living to enjoy our finished work demands safety awareness, common sense and care. For your own safety, as well as that of those around you, please read these safety tips and be familiar with the safe operation of the equipment in your shop and its proper use when working on your vehicle. Even if you're an old shop vet, re-reading safety tips can keep you from the clutches of complacency

       Every year, people die while working on their vehicles and more are injured. Almost without exception such accidents are due to human error.

       The three commonly observed factors contributing to these deaths and injuries are:

Serious hazards include dropping heavy components, improperly secured loads, and incorrect use of equipment and tools.

       Thanks to Jim Proffit, Kip, Racecarl, Chief, boyoconnor, TT, Barry Weeks, Joe H, Ken, Jeff Nelson, Phat, Stingray, 52CHEVY and Tony for contributing to the following.

Before you start...

       The best safety practice you can do is to use your head and the common sense God gave each of us. A good rule to follow is this -- if you think something might be unsafe, it probably is. If it moves and can hurt you, make sure it's unplugged, shut off, and locked out. Remove a battery cable before climbing in: electric fans can start without the engine running, kids playing around in the cab can hit the starter, etc...

       Have a first aid kit readily accessable as well. These days, we have cell and cordless phones available -- use 'em! They can be your best safety tools and should be within reach to dial 911 if you must work alone. When working alone, be sure you can be seen from the street, if in the 'burbs. Some folks will not have this luxury and for them, a phone nearby should be a must have.

Good Work Habits

       Keeping your area neat and clean can help prevent accidents. When you are done with a tool, put it away. Grease, oil, water and other liquids spilled on the floor cause serious slipping hazards. Clean up spills immediately. For grease and oil spills, use a non-combustible absorbent material. Put oily rags in a self-closing container marked "Oily Rags Only."

       To avoid tripping hazards and cuts and bruises, keep your work area, aisles and walkways clear of parts, tools and equipment. Parts, wrenches and other tools laying around the work area are accidents waiting to happen.

       You should not smoke within 50 yards of flammable materials. Thus, you should not smoke in your shop or around your work area. Of course, you shouldn't smoke at all ...

       Keep to a reasonable work schedule. A lot of us work on our old vehicles after a long day at work. It can be a real temptation to try and do too much each evening or Saturday morning -- Don't! Don't work when you are tired or taking medication that could make you drowsy. Work slowly and methodically -- don't rush your work! When you get tired or frustrated, put the tools away, clean up your work area and quit for the night because at that point, you are an accident about to happen.

       And of course, alcohol and grease don't mix -- save happy hour until after the work is done for the day.

Fire Extinguishers

       A properly maintained fire extinguisher is a mandatory item for any shop. If you have a larger shop, you should have as many fire extinguishers as you need so that you can always grab one quickly anywhere in the shop. Only use a Federally approved A-B-C type fire extinuisher and be sure you know how to use it. If you use a Halon extinguisher, remember that in an exclosed area, Halon will kill you the same way it kills the fire -- by depriving you of oxygen very quickly. You should not use Halon in an enclosed space. When using Halon on a fire, leave the area immediately!


       Be sure your work area is adequately lighted. When using a drop or shop light, be sure it is impact resistant and in good operating condition.

Clothing & Jewelery

       You should always dress appropriately for the work you are doing. If you wear long hair or loose clothing, tie it back and secure it so it doesn't get caught up in something. Remove rings, watches, chains, etc, that could get caught in rotating or closing equipment (and thus remove fingers, hands or heads!). Loose long sleeves, loose clothing or long hair (tie it back) should not be worn around rotating equipment (PTO shafts, drill presses, grinders, engines, etc.) It will pull you in a lot quicker than you can react. Forget the "Mr. T" routine, chains are for the disco or hauling logs and binding loads -- they do not belong around your neck in the shop.

Eye and Hearing protection

Hand Tools

       Most hand and power tools can be dangerous if they are not operated in the right way or are used for a purpose different than intended. Nationally, hand tools cause approximately six percent of all compensable disabling injuries. Disabilities resulting from misuse of tools or using damaged tools include loss of vision, puncture wounds from flying chips, severed fingers, broken bones and contusions. Safety precautions must be observed to prevent serious mishaps.

       Learn each tool's application and limitations, as well as the specific hazards peculiar to it. Keep all guards in place and in good working order. Form a habit of checking to see that keys and adjusting wrenches are removed from tool before turning it "on."

       Before using, check wrenches for cracks and worn jaws; screwdrivers for broken or rounded tips; hammers for chipped, mushroomed, or loose heads and broken handles; chisels for mushroomed heads; and extension cords or electric tools for broken plugs and frayed insulation. If you find any of these defects, fix or replace the tool before using.

       Don't force any tool -- It will do the job better and be safer to use at the rate for which it was designed. Use the correct tool for the application -- Don't force a tool or attachment to do a job for which it was not designed. Screwdrivers are not chisels.

       Don't use power tools in damp or wet locations. To prevent electrical shocks, check your tools for an intact ground wire prong or make sure they are double-insulated and don't have frayed or worn cords. If tool is equipped with three-prong plug, it should be plugged into a three-hole electrical receptacle. If an adapter is used to accommodate a two-prong receptacle, the adapter lug must be attached to a known ground. Never remove the third prong. If the third prong has been cut off or the cord is frayed or cut, don't use the tool.

       NEVER "rest" your tools inside the engine compartment or at least count them in and count them out.

       Secure your work. Use clamps or a vise to hold work when practical. It's safer than using your hand and frees both hands to operate the tool.

Stationary Power Tools

       Moving machine parts have the potential for causing severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns, and blindness, just to name a few. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these needless and preventable injuries. Machine guarding and related machinery violations continuously rank among the top 10 of OSHA citations issued. In fact, "Mechanical Power Transmission" (1910.219) and "Machine Guarding: General Requirements" (1910.212) were the No. 6 and No. 7 top OSHA violations for FY 1997, with 3,077 and 3,050 federal citations issued, respectively.


       NEVER work with equipment, appliances, etc. when frayed, pinched, bare wires, loose connections, loose or missing strain reliefs, damaged or poorly wired plugs or any signs of defects are present. Regarless of age of electrical equipment. Always inspect the appliance/tool for such obseverations. If you are not sure how to make repairs on such items, DO NOT ATTEMPT to repair them. Tool and appliance repairmen are out there and need the work. Give it to them. DO NOT Work with electricity when it is raining, or wet in your work area. Wear insulating shoes and gloves. If you haven't already converted to Ground Fault Interruption outlets in your work shop, you should. But don't trust them 100 percent -- they're no substitute for keeping your equipment in good condition. Also, Arc Fault detecting circuit breakers are also becoming more available for residential and commercial use (In fact, they will soon become mandatory per the National Building Code).

Compressed Air

       Inspect compressed air hoses before using and replace cracked, worn or frayed hose. Reduce compressed air below 30 psi for cleaning dirt and dust from parts and the work area and never use compressed air to clean yourself or your clothes. Air must be shut off and all pressure in the line must be released before disconnecting the air hose from the air line.


       Grinders in the shop are guarded to prevent injury if the grinding wheel breaks. Bench and pedestal grinders have safety guards which cover at least three-fourths of the outside of the wheel. The adjustable work or tool rest is required to be kept within one-eighth inch of the wheel. The tongue guard must be kept within one-fourth inch of the wheel. Make sure you only use the surface area of the wheel intended for grinding and that all guards are in place. Wear all personal protective equipment posted for the equipment.

Hydraulic Lifts

       You need to take certain precautions when operating a hydraulic lift. Review the lift's instructions prior to operating it. Be sure you understand them. Make sure everyone is standing clear of the vehicle as it is being driven into position on the lift and the load is resting squarely on the lift. Check the load limits of the lift and adapter to make sure you don't overload them. Don't lock the hoist controls in the open or shut position. They are to be operated manually. Make sure the lift's mechanical locking device is working. You notice any irregular operation or leaking oil, do not use the lift until you have determined the cause and corrected it.

Hydraulic Jacks

       Hydraulic jacks are one of the most useful tools in the shop. Before using a jack make sure it is in safe, operable condition and that you are familiar with its operation. Also, be sure the vehicle you are jacking is parked on a firm, level surface. NEVER get under a vehicle supported only by a jack. To prevent a serious accident, place wheel chocks around tires remaining in contact with the ground before jacking. Always use jack stands under the vehicle with the hydraulic jack. They'll keep the vehicle from falling on you if the jack is accidentally released. As an added safety measure, also place heavy wood blocks (6"x6" as a minimum) under axles or frame members as added protection should the jack stands fail while you are under the vehicle. Check and recheck all safety devices on hydraulic jacks. Don't exceed the weight limits posted on the jacks, and keep it in good condition.

       Racecarl says: "Bumper jacks and Handy-Man jacks are widow-makers and should be regarded as such at all times. NEVER even THINK about crawling under a vehicle suspended by one of these."

Jack Stands

       If you are going to be jacking your truck up and supporting it on stands, make sure you are working on a firm, level surface capable of supporting several tons, and always use stands with a minimum 2-ton capacity. Even then, consider where you live. (ie California or anywhere along the San Andreas Fault Line.) It is always best to work with jackstands, NOT the jack. When using jackstands, and getting underneath the vehicle, if possible, place very large wooden blocks under the axles, when axles are attached. Not a good idea to work with just jackstands alone and no wheels and rims to catch the truck should it fall. When adding the wooden blocks, a max clearance of an inch tolarance should be sufficiant. This added safety measure should be about all you can do, short of chaining the vehicle to the sky.

       If you buy used jack stands, make certain that you check the welds for cracks, observe any differences in manufacture and give the the jack stands a thorough inspection -- It's your life those things are designed to protect.

       Anytime a jack stand is used for the first time, be sure you read and follow the directions.

Carbon Monoxide

       Vehicle exhaust is a major source of carbon monoxide, a deadly gas. Symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide include a dull headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea and pounding of the heart. To protect yourself and others from this deadly gas, don't run vehicles in the shop. Only run vehicles in the shop if you have a proper tailpipe exhaust system in operation.


       There is very little exposure to asbestos in most shops. However, if you repair brakes or work near these operations, you could be exposed to asbestos dust. Breathing this material could lead to asbestosis which is a disabling lung disease. Continued exposure to asbestos may lead to lung cancer. Dust must be vacuumed from the drums and floor with a special vacuum that has a high-efficiency particulate filter. Dry sweeping, mopping or cleaning with pressurized air should be strictly prohibited in your shop. Brake work requires personal protective equipment, such as a filter respirator and safety glasses. When done, be sure to change clothes if you have gotten any brake dust on yourself.

Flammable Liquid Storage

       Don't store or keep flammable liquids in your work area. If possible, a seperate shed should be constructed or purchased specifically for storing flammables such as gas cans, solvents, thinners, paints, etc, and placed away from your living and working spaces -- if practical. If your living space does not allow for the above. Always dispose of gasoline at first chance as modern gas does not keep for very long. If the gas is good, pour it into your car and burn it. If not, find out where you can properly dispose of it. When storing your vehicle, drain the fuel tank. Especially if the period is expected to be extended. (like a few years during a major restoration). Nowadays, gas formulation does not allow the liquid to store as well as in the past.


       You could be exposed to solvents during parts cleaning, degreasing and spray painting. All organic solvents have some effect on the central nervous system and skin. Inhaling high concentrations of solvent vapors may cause a lack of coordination and drowsiness or even damage to the blood, lungs, liver, kidneys and digestive system. Skin contact may cause dermatitis, ranging from a simple irritation to actual skin damage. Solvents can also dissolve the natural skin barriers of fats and oils, leaving the skin unprotected. Solvents will be used in well-ventilated areas only.

       Appropriate personal protective equipment including goggles, gloves, respirator and apron will be worn to minimize exposure to solvents.

Spray Painting

       Spray painting can be a serious health and fire hazard. Paint sprayed under pressure can be toxic when inhaled. Thinning paint with solvents and then spraying it compounds the problem by increasing the likelihood of combustion or even an explosion. Prior to, during and after spray painting make sure the ventilation system is working. Review the paint's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and container label for hazards and safety precautions. Personal protective equipment must be worn throughout the spray painting evolution. This includes safety goggles and a properly fitted respiratory protection device. For a good fit check the respirator for leaks each time you put it on. While spraying if you smell vapors, stop painting immediately and check your equipment.

Epoxy Plastics

       Automotive body fillers activated by chemical hardeners can cause rashes and sores if these hardeners come in contact with your skin. If your skin comes in contact with any hardener, wash it off immediately with soap and water. To prevent this kind of exposure, wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt when working with epoxies.


       While welding, goggles, helmets and shields that give maximum eye protection for each welding and cutting process must be worn, as well as gloves for burn protection. During heavy work, flame-resistant material such as gauntlet gloves, aprons, and leggings must be worn. Additionally, safety shoes must be worn when working with heavy objects. Cotton clothing shall not be worn. Woolen clothing is preferable because it is more resistant to ignition. Sleeves and collars must be kept buttoned. Trousers cuffs will not be turned-up. Barriers should be placed around the welding area not only for eye protection but also to minimize vapors entering the shop area. Gas tanks shall be taken off vehicles, then purged of flammable, combustible and explosive vapors. Keep your compressed gas cylinders chained or latched so that they cannot fall over. Only move them when they are attached to a cylinder dolly -- But turn those tanks off when moving them, even just a few feet! .

Working with a buddy

       Working in the shop is always more fun when you get to do it with a friend. Having someone else with you also improves safety when you are working around or under dangerous machinery (which just about everything in our shops qualifies as!) -- if something were to happen, your buddy can either help you or call for more help. Having an extra set of eyes and ears to watch or listen for unsafe situations can be exceptionally helpful. When working with a friend, though, be sure you clearly understand each other during your work. Sometimes, communication can impede safety rather than improve it. For instance, make sure you use easily understood words when working around machinery. Don't use words that sound similar but could have terrible results if misunderstood, like NO! and GO!

Visitors in the shop

       All children and visitors should be kept a safe distance from work area. A shop is an inherently dangerous place for children, thus they should not be allowed in your shop area. Do not allow children to play in your vehicle while you are working on it! If there is a chance a child could gain entry to your shop, use padlocks, master switches and remove starter keys and battery cables to childproof your shop.

       Insist upon safe work practices for anyone visiting or working in your shop. You can be as safe as you want, but it doesn't do any good if you have someone unsafe next to you. Their mistakes can still involve you. Make sure those around you are safe too.

1. OPNAVINST 5100.25A
2. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B153.1©1990
3. ANSI Z9.3©1994
4. ANSI B11.9©1975 (R 1987)
5. ANSI/ISANTA SNT©101©1993
6. ANSI/UL 1624©1988
7. ANSI/ASME PALD©1©1993
8. ANSI/UL 45©1990
9. ANSI B186.1©1984
10. ANSI/ASME PALD©9©1993
11. ANSI/UL 987©1990
12. 29 CFR 1910.1001
13. National Fire Protection Association Std 3
14. OSHA
15. Members of the Stovebolt Discussion Forums

Home | FAQ | Forum | Swap Meet | Gallery | Tech Tips | Events | Features | Search | Hoo-ya Shop

No parts of this site, its contents, photos or graphics may be used without permission.  

Copyright © 1995-2023 | The Stovebolt Page | Leonardtown, Maryland