Brake and Clutch Repair Work
Note: We know you all don’t do the work discussed in this module, but we think it’s important that we all have a general
awareness of the hazards associated with brake and clutch repair work.
Workers who service and repair automotive brakes and clutches may face significant exposure to asbestos, especially when
using an air hose to clean brake drums. Many brakes and clutches used in new and recent model automobiles do not contain
asbestos. However, it has not been totally eliminated. Some reports have indicated that many mechanics and employees in the
automotive repair shops as well as do-it-yourselfers are unaware asbestos may be present in both old and replacement brakes
OSHA’s asbestos standard requires the use of controls and safe work practices when employees work with brake shoes and
clutches that contain asbestos. This module coves some of the basic requirements in the standard. To obtain detailed information
on these requirements check out 1910.1001(f)(3)
and Appendix F,
Work Practices and Engineering Controls for Automotive Brake and Clutch Inspection, Disassembly, Repair and Assembly.
– Sokolove Law
Click to play video
All automotive brake and clutch repair facilities must comply with the OSHA asbestos standard. The proper use of engineering
controls and work practices by properly trained employees working on automotive brakes and clutches will reduce their asbestos
exposure below the PEL.
Respiratory protection is not required during brake and clutch jobs where the control methods are used and the PEL is not exceeded.
OSHA requires one of the following work methods (or an equivalent method) if a shop works on more than five pairs of brakes or five
clutches per week:
- Negative-Pressure Enclosure/HEPA Vacuum System Method This type of enclosure and vacuum system has a special
box with clear plastic walls or windows, which fits tightly around a brake or clutch assembly to prevent asbestos exposure.
- Low Pressure/Wet Cleaning Method: This specially designed low-pressure spray equipment wets down the brake
assembly and catches the runoff in a special basin to prevent airborne brake dust from spreading in the work area.
- Wet Wipe Method: If a shop works on no more than five pairs of brakes or five clutches per week, OSHA allows
this method instead. It involves using a spray bottle or other device capable of delivering a fine mist of water, or amended water
(water with a detergent), at low pressure to wet all brake and clutch parts. The brakes can then be wiped clean with a cloth. The
use of dry brushing during wet method operations is prohibited.
To learn more about the specific procedures for the above methods, check out OSHA’s Asbestos-Automotive Brake and Clutch Repair Safety Bulletin.
Historic video from 1986. Asbestos in brakes.
Click to play video
Mechanics should assume all brakes have asbestos-type shoes. Worn non-asbestos-type brake shoes cannot be readily distinguished
from asbestos-type shoes. If a mechanic assumes incorrectly a shoe is a non-asbestos-type and fails to utilize brake dust control
procedures, increased asbestos exposure may result. Follow these practices when working on automotive brakes or clutches:
- Be trained in the correct and most effective way to use the control system selected by the facility manager or owner. The danger
of increased exposure to asbestos as the result of improper work practices should be explained. Examples of improper work practice include:
directing an air nozzle at an enclosure seal, placing the nozzle of a spray mist too close to the work surface, not placing the vacuum nozzle
close enough to the contaminated surface, turning on the vacuum pumps before positioning the vacuum enclosure over the wheel and leaving them
on when removing the enclosure, and splashing or spilling contaminated solutions on the floor. A control system must always be used and
consistent work procedures are essential.
- Use pre-ground, ready-to-install parts when possible. If asbestos-containing friction materials must be drilled, grooved, cut, beveled,
or lathe-turned, low speeds should always be used to keep down the amount of dust created. All machinery should have an adequate, HEPA
equipped local exhaust dust collection system to prevent asbestos exposures and shop contamination. Immediately clean spills of brake dust
or contaminated solutions by HEPA vacuuming or wet mopping.
- Develop a maintenance program for the system used to control brake dust. Maintenance should include checking and replacing seals, nozzles,
other hardware, contaminated filters and solutions. Any deficiencies such as ineffective seals, or air nozzles should be repaired.
- Collect, recycle, and dispose of asbestos contaminated waste, scrap, debris, bags, containers, equipment, and clothing in sealed
impermeable bags, or other closed, impermeable containers.
- To reduce the possibility of asbestos contamination, periodically clean workbenches, floors, etc.
- Perform brake and clutch work in an area isolated from other work areas.
- Post signs informing employees not to eat, drink, or smoke in the brake and clutch work area. Asbestos and other potentially toxic
materials can be ingested or inhaled during these activities.
- Stress personal hygiene, such as frequent hand washing with soap or detergent.
- Provide a laundry service with facilities for cleaning asbestos contaminated work clothing.
- Change from soiled, contaminated work clothes into clean clothes before leaving work. Removing clothing provides protection against
bringing asbestos into the home environment.
Effective asbestos safety training should include at least the following:
- how to properly perform a task,
- how each work practice reduces potential exposure, and
- how employees can benefit from these practices.
No matter which control system is used, employees must be trained in how to use it properly. Employees who can recognize and
control hazards can better protect themselves from asbestos exposure. Training will also be more effective when supervisors frequently
reinforce the training and work practices by providing feedback and recognition.
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