Burns and Fires
The subject of burns can run the gamut from hot header and brake rotor burns to fuel fires. Most tracks and sanctioning bodies require a fire extinguisher to be present at all times in the pit area. I have looked around during many events and not seen a fire extinguisher.
In Grand Am racing, when a team is moving fuel or fueling the car, the persons doing the work must have full fire-protection suits on at all times. Most bodies require all pit crewmembers to wear firesuits during a race, and some require helmets.
Pit fires happen fast and must be dealt with immediately. Put a fire bottle near your pit where anyone can get to it quickly. It only takes a minute of someone's time and may save someone from a lifetime of pain and disfigurement.
A pit blunder is when someone does something that is stupid by all accounts and someone gets injured. It could be as simple as forgetting to put the car in gear or as serious as leaving a tire unattended while inflating.
Tire accidents happen. A few years ago, at a track we will not name and under one of the most strict sanctioning bodies we also will not name, a young rookie racer was allowed to air up the tires. He attached a lock-on hose end to the tire and walked away.
When he returned, the tire was seriously overinflated and he attempted to remove the air hose. That was about the time the tire exploded off the rim and took a large part of his arm and shoulder with it. He died.
Look out for novices in the pits. They just don't understand the dangers. They need looking after and instruction, as opposed to being left to learning the hard way. The hard way can sometimes be fatal.
Every once in a while, someone falls off a hauler or trips over a jack handle or jackstand. Most of these types of injuries come from moving too fast. Do you ever see a crewmember who cannot slow down? Everything they do is in a hurry, as if lives depended on getting the task at hand done.
Lives are dependent on the speed of doing tasks, but in reverse. The old saying, "a stitch in time saves nine (could be surgical stitches)" could be applied to racing activities. Running through the pits is never recommended and, if necessary, should be done carefully. If you have a crewmember who insists on running everywhere, talk him into slowing down. Save the speed for the pit stops where it is both appropriate and welcomed.
Electrical shocks are also fairly rare. Race teams work with electrical power tools that are often run by generators. A modern generator produces enough power to kill a person.
Every hurricane season, reports of persons being seriously injured from electrical shocks due to improper use of a generator surface. That means it can and does happen. Inspect electrical cords, use grounded tools and wires, and avoid water.
Track outlets are outdoor fixtures and only as safe as the weather. Again, avoid wet conditions and unplug all power tools if it starts to rain. The use of gloves may provide insulation from electrical shocks.
The Live Pit Dangers
The most dangerous place and time would have to be in the hot pits while the race is in progress. When cars come in to pit for whatever reason, they are looking to save time-and that means going as fast as the rules will allow.
Crewmembers are often injured by the following: 1) getting hit by the car itself when entering or leaving the pits, 2) the car falling off the jack, 3) fuel spilling on the hot brakes (producing a fireball), and 4) cuts, burns, and bruises from repairing a bent-up race car after an accident.
There is an extensive array of firesuits, aprons, gloves, arm covers, shoes, knee and elbow pads, and eye and ear protection available that can help reduce live pit injuries. Use them. Car owners should provide the pit crew with all of the equipment necessary to avoid injury.
Always keep in mind that racing is a sport, and all sports produce injuries. The more aware we are of the dangers, the better prepared we can be to help prevent serious injury to ourselves and others. Safety in racing is cool, and you should never feel ashamed to step forward to help improve the situation for pit safety around you.