Today's racing often sees the involvement of family members, friends, and co-workers. The environment is much different than what we see in our everyday lives in that it is inherently dangerous. A lot can, and often does, go wrong. Let's explore the subject of pit safety to see if we can instill basic preventative measures in your routine to help avoid accidents.
Most industries are self regulated, if not governmentally regulated as to safety standards. To our knowledge, auto racing is not universally regulated. That means that for every track you go to, there may or may not be rules concerning track and pit safety.
Depending on the individual track or sanctioning body, the involvement with dictating safety rules is, in a word, varied. Individually, we must adopt our own safety rules to take with us so that we can prevent injury to ourselves and others and survive to enjoy this great sport.
Pit safety involves procedures and equipment. In years past, it could be argued that sufficient safety equipment was not available to protect us, but procedural arguments would never hold up. We've always had a brain.
Here is a list of problem areas with pit safety and some discussion on how to make things less problematic.
If you've been involved with working on a race car, you have had your fingers pinched, parts dropped on your toes, and so on. The worst-case scenario is to have a car dropped on you while under it. Jackstands are a no-brainer for working under a car. Never rely on a floor jack to safely support a car while someone is under it.
If you see a crewmember go under a car without jackstands in place, put them there yourself. Trust me, you will be a hero if the jack gives way. You will be a zero if you stand there and do nothing and someone gets seriously injured because of inaction. As with most items of track safety, we must constantly be aware of potential dangers around us that involve not only ourselves, but others as well.
Cuts are annoying and almost never require medical attention. Every now and then, stitches are needed, but other than that, we go on. That being said, cuts can be avoided by using pit gloves, arm protection, or basically ensuring that sharp edges are covered or removed.
I had a crew that went so far as to insist that the tie-wrap ends be cut off close to the female end with a razor blade to avoid the sharp corners that come from using diagonal pliers, which will cut you every time. This attention to safety detail was commendable.
Getting run over by a race car or service vehicle is fairly rare, but it does happen. If you are walking in the pits and not continually looking around and behind you, you are an accident waiting to happen. If you are with someone who is not familiar with pit protocol, keep a close eye on that person and give him or her instructions on how to conduct him or herself.
I had the opportunity to save a person from serious injury at Charlotte one year when a fast-moving Cup car was turning into its garage space and a dummy turned into its path. I instinctively grabbed his arm and jerked him clear at the last second. The difference in walking away and being carried away was only about four tenths of a second. Be aware at all times