Mention the word "safety" in racing circles and the conversation will instantly turn to helmets, firesuits or any other number of safety devices like a head and neck restraint (you wear one right?). However, safety in racing really starts far away from the track. It starts in the shop. It may sound trivial or even silly but we all know at least one racer who could easily qualify as the featured project on that cable TV show "Clean Sweep."
I have a friend, who for the purposes of his avoiding further embarrassment, shall remain nameless. Anyway, my friend, let's call him Gary for the sake of this article, is a shorttrack racer from up North who races in a weekly division. Gary would qualify for that show. Like most short-trackers, Gary has a day job and spends the weeknights working on the racecar and the weekends racing. It's a family affair as Gary has a wife and two kids. And like most racers, Gary is mechanically inclined, as such, he gets a big list of honeydo's. One day, Gary is working on that list and honey-do item No. 6 required him to grind a metal support bracket for a bathroom remodel. With the grinder wheel humming and the sparks flying, Gary got the bracket done quickly and headed upstairs to the bathroom.
Pete Raskovic goes over the...
Pete Raskovic goes over the importance of Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS with his students. If you have hazardous chemicals in your shop, you are required by law to have MSDS on hand and neatly organized in an easily-accessible place.
When Gary's wife (we'll call her Debbie) came home with the kids (let's call them Olivia and Jake) about 10 minutes later, she found the garage engulfed in flames. The sparksfrom the grinder landed on some soiled rags that were in the corner. Gary never knew what happened. His garage has no smoke detector and he was on the other side of the house working in the bathroom.
Thankfully Debbie came home in time to see it and called the fire department. Fortunately Gary's racecar was on the trailer behind the house. Unfortunately, Gary's new front nose, four new tires, new gauge cluster and many of his tools were lost.
The point of this story is to get you thinking about safety in everything you do as a racer, from the shop to the tow rig to the pits to the track. But it all starts in the shop. If you can't keep that place clean, neat and safe how can you run a tight ship at the track?
Team members Matt Carrell...
Team members Matt Carrell (left) and Doug Shimmens check to make sure that their MSDS book is up to date and correct. If it wasn't, the team could risk a fine in an OSHA inspection.
To get a good idea of some often overlooked safety points, we grabbed the camera and opened the doors to Urban Force Racing's brand-new race shop up in Beloit, Wisc. Now this team has graced the pages of CIRCLE TRACK in the past. You may remember them from the Not Your Typical Race Shop story in the August 2007 issue. Since the team is made up solely of high school students, team manager Pete Raskovic has to be a stickler when it comes to safety procedures in the shop. They make the perfect partner for this story because of that high school connection which constantly puts the team under the watch of OSHA. For example, Pete has to keep Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS on hand for every chemical he has in the shop. You may think "big deal" but consider this-your race team could also be required, by law, to have MSDS on hand especially if you're incorporated and run your team like a business.
Now that's just one example, and there're many more. Pete took time out of building the latest Circle Track project car to give us some tips on, how to run a safe shop. So, let's have a look.
Urban Force's shop has a clearly...
Urban Force's shop has a clearly marked, brightly-painted storage cabinet specifically for fuels and flammable liquids. So should your shop.
Inside that clearly-marked...
Inside that clearly-marked cabinet is a pair of full fuel jugs. Notice how neat everything is around them.
After changing the oil in...
After changing the oil in a motor, Edgar Delgado pours the used oil into a storage container that will be emptied periodically. While not all of us have Safety Kleen showing up to the shop weekly, you still need to dispose of used oil properly.