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Do workplace safety rules allow customers to be in dealership shop?

Expert: CO Staff

Kurt asked:

I work in a dealership in Steinbach, Manitoba as a mechanic and wonder whether a customer is allowed to be in the shop underneath or around their vehicle while it's being work on?

CO Staff answered:

To answer your question we contacted a senior Safety & Health Officer with the Workplace Safety & Health, Department of Labour, Manitoba.

The officer explained that legislation provides overall safety guidelines that apply to all businesses in the province rather than providing exact requirements for specific businesses. The overriding requirement that relates to your question is section 4(2)(D) of the Act, which requires a business to: "... conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons who are not in his service are not exposed to risks to their safety or health arising out of, or in connection with activities in his workplace."1

The most important thing, stressed the officer, is to do proper due diligence when evaluating the risks for both the employees and the public when setting policies about allowing people into the shop.

The officer noted that he would encourage automotive shops to avoid having people go into the shop area. If the business is going to allow people into the shop, the owners need to undergo some kind of risk assessment and take specific steps to reduce the risks, most likely by having some policies and procedures in place.

When a company does due diligence it also needs to look at the risk from an insurance perspective. An accident in a shop could create an enormous liability risk due to the potential for serious injury. For example, imagine the risk if a mechanic is driving a car with brake problems into the shop. In a worst case scenario a visiting customer could be struck and badly injured if the brakes were to fail.

When doing due diligence it is possible to create policies and procedures that will minimize the risk. For example, the business might create safe walkway corridors, only allow customers in a particular area that is cordoned off from the rest of the shop and that provide safety equipment like eye goggles to visiting customers.

Regardless, if there is an accident it will be very important for the business to demonstrate that it did do the required due diligence and that it did everything in its power to limit the risk of injury both to the public and its employees. The officer noted that it is only after something happens that people ask 'why did you have them in there?'.

When an accident does occur, it is critical to have documentation showing that the company did everything it could to limit the risk and that its employees were properly trained in company procedures.

Any businesses in Manitoba that would like help designing an effective policy can contact an officer at the Workplace Safety and Health for assistance.

Note: effective February 1, 2007 the new Workplace Safety and Health Regulation will take effect. More information on the new regulation can be found at


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