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Safe Shops Case Study

​Boston’s more than 500 automotive shops, located primarily in low-income communities of color, are a source both of well-paying jobs and of potential hazardous exposures to employees and residents. Safe Shops is available for all businesses across Boston, but originally focused on the neighborhoods of , Mattapan and Roxbury.  The table below summarizes some of the neighborhood demographics and health concerns in the target area.

Neighborhood​Roxbury​Dorchester ​Mattapan
​​NorthSouth
​Pop. % non-White​85% 82%​67%​97%
​Pop. % below poverty level​29.2%​22.9%​17.6%​17.5%
​Asthma hospitalizations per 1,000 children under 5 (1999-2003)​14.8​13.7​11.4​9.9
​Elevated blood lead levels (10 ug/dL or greater)​2.2%​4.4%​3.8%​2.8%
​Number of Auto Shops​36​ ​163​45


The mission of this project is to help shops improve workplace safety while reducing pollution. Safe Shops does this by offering an average of three environmental and workplace safety trainings to auto shop workers per month.  To further improve worker health and address community health disparities, the Public Health Van is sent out to a local shop once a month to provide free screenings and help workers and neighbors access health care.  Ongoing services, such as these, improve community health. 

Common Auto Shop Hazards

​Mechanical Repair Shop HazardsBody and Paint Shop Hazards
​Workers not using proper personal protective equipment (dust masks for working with solvents/paint, etc.)​Workers not using proper personal protective equipment (dust masks for working with solvents/paint, etc.)
​Improper storage of flammable materials​Improper storage of flammable materials
​Workers not adequately trained/informed – no knowledge of MSDS, safety plan, etc.​Workers not adequately trained/informed – no knowledge of MSDS, safety plan, etc.
​Parts cleaning in uncovered solvent systems​Cleaning of paint guns releasing large amounts of solvent into the air
​Improper and “off label” use of spray organic solvents​Spray painting outside of an enclosed spray booth
​Improper storage of auto batteries, scrap metal, and spare parts​Heavy metals and vapors exposures from body work and cutting/welding
​Improper labeling, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes​Sanding and body work being done without dust capture devices or respiratory protection

 

Auto body and repair shops produce hazardous waste, store flammable and hazardous materials, and release organic solvents and VOCs as regular business practice.  Because of lack of zoning laws, auto shops are located in residential areas, next to schools and playgrounds.  They are commonly transient businesses, making them sometimes hard to locate and regulate.

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Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: info@bphc.org