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Servicing Tires Safely

Tire maintenance and repair are common, everyday practices in shops and garages across the country. When performed improperly, though, the consequences can be deadly. A quick search on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) website turns up the following headlines related to tire servicing gone wrong:
 

  • One employee is killed and other is injured when changing tire
  • Employee is struck in head by tire rim, later dies
  • Employee dismounting tire sustains amputation of finger
  • Employee fractures arm when struck by tire
  • Employee is struck by flying tire and wheel, later dies
  • Worker inflating tire fractures pelvis when sidewall fails[i]

 
Lack of training is often a key factor in injuries related to servicing tires and rims. One such example is when an employee, untrained in tire inflation, was asked to finish a job by inflating a tire. While attempting to secure a 16-in. tire to a 16.5-in. rim, the tire blew up, shattering the employees left arm from his elbow to his fingers and rendered him unconscious for three days.[ii]
 
OSHA addresses tubeless, tube-type, and multi-piece rims in the 29 CFR 1910.177 standard. Below are some rules to follow when servicing tires:
 
ALWAYS

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations.
  • Provide proper training to technicians servicing tires and rims.
  • Conduct a visual and tactile inspection of the tire by looking for signs of overload and/or run-flat conditions.
  • Use non-flammable vegetable or soap-based rubber lubricant on beads and rim surfaces.
  • Use proper tools to demount and mount tires and rims, such as rubber mallets or plastic dead blow hammers.
  • Wear adequate personal protective equipment, such as eye and face protection, protective footwear, and appropriate ear protection.
  • Deflate tire completely before demounting by removing valve core.
  • Make sure the tire is matched to the rim before mounting.
  • Use a restraining device when inflating a tire.
  • Stay out of the trajectory of the tire should it explode.

 
NEVER

  • Allow an untrained person to work on tires and rims.
  • Use starter fluid, ether, gasoline, or other flammable materials to seat the beads of a tire.
  • Inflate tire beyond 40 psi to seat the beads.
  • Stand, lean, or reach over a tire/wheel assembly during inflation.
  • Assemble a tire and rim unless the set is a positive match.
  • Use a rim part that cannot be identified by the information stamp.
  • Re-inflate any tire that has been operated in run-flat or underinflated conditions.
  • Strike the tire or wheel assembly with a steel hammer to unseat beads.
  • Rework, weld, heat, or braze any rim parts or components.
  • Use any multi-piece rim parts that are worn, bent, cracked, or pitted by corrosion.[iii]

 
Besides the mounting and demounting parts of service, other common hazards to be aware of that consistently cause injury to technicians include strains and sprains (due to overexertion) and slips, trips, and falls. Technicians should be trained in proper lifting techniques and, where possible, use equipment to provide lift assistance. A housekeeping policy should be in place to help eliminate slip, trip, and fall hazards.
 
There is much that can be done to prevent injuries and deaths during tire servicing activities. Supplying proper tools and providing training to technicians before conducting the work and regularly thereafter can go a long way to creating a safer workplace.

[i] https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/AccidentSearch.search?acc_keyword=%22Tire%20Bead%22&keyword_list=on

[ii] https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/accidentsearch.accident_detail?id=201037512

[iii]  https://www.tireindustry.org/sites/default/files/OSHA%20multipiece%20and%20single%20piece%20rim%20booklet_2014.pdf

 

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