Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

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It’s not rocket science, it’s more important than that!

Vehicle Dismantling safety Keith Hole
Keith Hole

Keith Hole, otherwise known as ‘The Safety Man’ provides us with his practical knowledge on keeping safe in our yards.

End of life vehicles, it’s not rocket science but you have many of the same responsibilities and hazards, maybe more so.

So why are the risks relating to dismantling vehicles greater than rocket science?  

The environment, you, staff and members of the public work is likely not the same as in a regular garage or ‘spaceship factory’ (although some people do behave like they are from another planet). For that matter and the area might not be quite as well maintained as the rocket scientist in you might like.  

Dismantling vehicles with; 

  • not having manufacturer specialist tools
  • limited access to manufacturer workshop information
  • staff who may be self taught
  • removal of all contaminated fluids.

These are some things a manufacturer or dealership is unlikely to encounter, adding to that the hazards from “Big Dave”(1), your customer that has his value tool kit bought online and a full set of “dismantling hammers” introduces risks that the average rocket scientist does not have with the challenge of the time that it takes to get the job done.  

In a perfect world, it would be like when a customer takes a car into a garage to be repaired and that job takes as long as it needs to with labour by the hour, but in the dismantling industry this is not the case. Getting parts off the vehicle and onto the shelf is time critical and this can lead to taking risks or rushing to get the job done. The longer it takes to strip vehicles, the less profit you make and if you decide to let members of the public (who have varying degrees of knowledge and experience) strip parts, you are taking on that additional responsibility.

What can I do?

Vehicle Dismantling safety Keith HoleSo, what can you do to protect your staff and customers who visit your premises?  Firstly, you need to decide how much risk you are prepared to accept in comparison with the cost that it will involve as well as the benefits to you. You could decide to leave the large part of the dismantling to members of the public, but you might want to put some other control measures in place. Or you might decide that you will let members of the public work on the vehicles themselves, but provide frames to ensure vehicles are correctly supported. Finally, you might want to stop members of the public from doing anything, removing that risk but taking the extra time to let your own staff do the job.

At your premises, a sign saying customers dismantle vehicles at their own risk just won’t cut it. Both from Occupier liability (2&3) and Health and Safety (4&5) you have to keep safe persons not in your employ on your premises.

So what do you need to think about? There is the End of Life Vehicles Regulations 2003 (ELVR2003) but what do they mean? 

In the UK, two million vehicles will be processed every year, to ensure that potential pollutants such as fuel, oils, brake fluids and other liquids are removed, collected and stored. This means that you will need to ensure that you do this in such a way so as to protect the environment but also those who undertake the job.

In particular, you will need to make sure that you have risk assessed and made sure you have suitable and sufficient controls in place to cover:

  • Petrol recovery from end of life vehicles – the average vehicle when processed contains 10 litres of fuel; this creates a serious health and safety risk from fire and explosion, particularly with petrol driven vehicles. It is essential that the correct equipment and working practices are followed to control the risks related to petrol draining.
  • Oil recovery from vehicle shock absorbers.
  • Detonation of airbags – this can have a big impact on hearing and can cause injury. 

With hybrid vehicles, completely new hazards come into play, but thats for a future article.

Therefore it is good practice to have your staff remove these items to ensure these hazards are controlled and neither visitors or the environment are exposed to them. If it’s not there, visitors can’t damage it. This means more profit for you.

You have taken ‘five’, controlled the hazards and ensured the hazardous items are removed. Are there any quick fixes that could help with better controls?

Set out ground rules for staff and visitors. For example:

  • Only work under supported vehicles
  • Separate areas for vehicles of similar hazards
  • Only closed toe shoes to be worn
  • Staff only restricted areas
  • Part removal service
  • Hand wash areas for staff and visitors

So next time a ‘Rocket Scientist’ tells you about his day, remind them that you do not have the luxury of working with new parts or materials and its not practicable to control or train all of those accessing your premises. Keeping everyone safe is far more of a commitment for you. 

Ultimately, the thing you need to think about, is why would you or anyone else want to work unsafely and how could rushing a job to make a couple of quid more be worth more than going home safely to your family at the end of the day. 

Just remind them – “It’s not rocket science, it’s more important than that!”

The Safety Man is a mild mannered safety advisor just wanting to get everyone home safe. His alter ego, Keith Hole, is a specialist in international accreditation and the implementation of behavioural management techniques in health and safety. He is a serving member of Council for the global safety body, The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. A Chartered Fellow, he is the Vice Chairman of the IOSH Construction Group supporting close to 50,000 members worldwide.

He plays with old cars and can be found most weekends at a breakers yard. He also loves a bit of social media as The Safety Man. You have been warned!

Visit or tweet at 


  1. Other types of “Dave” are available. Just insert the name of your most troublesome customer.:-) 
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