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Safety First: Playin’ With the Big Boys

Autosphere » Tires » Safety First: Playin’ With the Big Boys
Matt White is the Director of Off Road Tire Service for the Tire Industry Association (TIA). He has over 35 years of experience training technicians from all over the globe on how to stay safe on the job. Photo Matt White

Large OTR tires need to be respected and taken seriously.

Although injuries are possible when working with light truck and passenger vehicle tires, larger tires pose greater dangers. In other words, commercial tires are more dangerous than passenger or LT tires and OTR tires are the most dangerous tires of all.

As a tire technician, you need to plan ahead in order to avoid injury, or even death, when working with OTR tires. At this scale, any mistakes you make will likely result in a fatality, and not just an injury.

To be clear, I’m talking about tires that can cost almost $60k a piece, and that store enough energy when inflated to blow up a building. I kid you not. These incredible tires store over a million-and-a-half foot-pounds of energy. To put that in perspective, it only takes nine pounds to break your arm.

Proper inflation procedures

As a tire technician, you’re exposed to the most danger when inflating and deflating these massive OTR tires. I’ve noticed that some techs don’t appreciate the level of danger they’re dealing with, and they become complacent. In other cases, they simply haven’t been adequately trained, and they’re not equipped with the necessary know-how to keep them safe.

As inconvenient as it may seem, you need to use an inflation device to safely inflate and deflate these tires, and you need to follow the proper procedure to do the job well, and to do it safely. Rim components need to be replaced because they hold all the pressure at bay. Lock rings need to be properly installed as well. Also, never stand in front of these tires when inflating or deflating them. You’re literally standing in the line of fire.

Proper cribbing

Another key area of concern is cribbing. If you’re working on some of the largest tires and trucks in the world, you need cribbing that can handle the weight. The right jack stands are a must. You don’t want the jack itself supporting the load, because sooner or later, that jack can fail, especially if it’s on unstable ground.

Moreover, the cribbing and jacks you use must be properly rated. You can’t just look a them and assume that they’re heavy-duty enough to support the weight of whichever truck you’re going to be working on. In fact, in Canada, by law, it must have a tag on it that tells you how much weight it can support. If there’s no tag, you’re not supposed to be using it.

Proper handling

Finally, keep in mind that these massive tires are extremely heavy. If they fall on you, they will kill you. We’re talking about tires that weigh anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 lbs.

You also want to make sure that the equipment you’re using to handle these tires is rated to support the weight of each tire. If it’s not, you could damage the equipment, the truck, the tire, or anything nearby.

Before you do anything, you’ll need a plan of attack that includes details like where you’re going to put the tire on the ground once you remove it. Cone off the area, and make sure other people don’t wander into the immediate vicinity.

Working with big tires means working smart. You need a plan, the proper tools, and the proper training. What you don’t need is to be rushed, or to take shortcuts. Stay safe!

 

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