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Protection Goes Beyond PPE by Matt White

Matt White, Director of Tire Services, Tire Industry Association (TIA). Photo: Matt White

In our industry, we work extremely hard. In fact, we work so hard to get the job done, that we forget about ourselves.

And that’s just plain wrong, for so many reasons. We can’t for a minute forget to take the proper steps and use the right safety equipment to keep us out of harm’s way.

It’s not just a matter of doing this, don’t do that. It has to be part of your thinking, your shop’s culture. Your quality of life has to be good so that you can enjoy life today and tomorrow when you’re older.

For example, there are so many hand injuries out there, it’s amazing. Why don’t techs wear gloves? It’s a simple easy step. There’s metal hanging out of the tires, so when you’re taking tires off, you can easily cut your hands. Cut injuries are extremely high in our industry.

And with cut injuries comes the risk of infection. That’s why you should always have a tetanus shot. No one thinks of that, and yet, look how often you cut your fingers. With grease and dirt everywhere, next thing you know, you’ve got an infection in your fingers.

Proper lifting

Remember your steel-toed shoes. Today’s rims and wheels, some of them are more than 250 pounds. That’s what you’ll find on the average F-250, over 250 pounds per tire. Identify the weight, and remember how to properly lift them, using your legs. Don’t just use your back and hold your breath. Bend all the way down and use proper lifting techniques.

In fact, the number one injury for tire technicians is back injuries. With a really big tire, a piece of equipment is used to pick it up. But for the average tire, you need to remember, how easily you can hurt your back. Proper lifting techniques can go a long way to protecting your back.

And going back to shoes, remember – you’re on cement. So use good shoes, and a mat, whenever you can. In my shop, we have mats down because you’re straight on cement, and your back is getting jarred all the time. Do whatever you can to support your back.

Mats also help when you’re on your knees, as do knee pads. Look at all those installers for flooring, they always wear knee pads. We’re often on our knees all day. We should be wearing knee pads and using a mat.

Eat right

Remember your earplugs. If you can’t hear someone talking to you, then you should be wearing earplugs. We have airguns, compressors, the daily noise high pitched hammers in the shop. That’s damaging to your ears.

Then there’s eye protection. With flying debris, metal shreds, your eyes need a shield. If you’re using an air-style pneumatic grinder, the law states that you must be wearing a face mask. With any kind of rotary tool, you should be wearing a face mask – not just the glasses, but an actual heavy plastic face mask.

Protection goes beyond PPE. Eat right, stay hydrated, take care of yourself. When you’re feeling great, it shows in your working habits. If you’re not feeling well, your mind’s off the game, and you can cause an injury to yourself or someone else. Stay protected, and stay safe.


Matt White is the Director of Tire Services for the Tire Industry Association (TIA). He has over 34 years of experience training technicians from all over the globe on how to stay safe on the job.

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