During its World Tire Conference and Exhibition last month, the International Tire and Rubber Association kicked off its new Commercial Tire Service Certification program. Based on the responses I heard from dealers about this program, I'd say it was quite well received. Almost every dealer was anxious to get his employees trained and certified so his company could begin reaping the benefits of this program as soon as possible.
But, one dealer I talked to expressed an opinion that I fear may be more common than most people are willing to admit. He said that even though his service technicians would be trained in the proper safety procedures, they would probably never use them.
My response to this resigned acceptance of blatantly unsafe, as well as illegal behavior is: ``Well, whose business is this?''
If the technicians own the business, I guess they can run it any way they want and accept the consequences. But if it's yours, shouldn't they be performing their jobs the way you want them to?
If your friendly government agents from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) waltz through your door and find your technicians not using the proper equipment or techniques, who do you think gets the $10,000 fine—your employees or you?
When one of your technicians gets his head taken off because a ring from the rim of an uncaged tire and wheel assembly he was inflating let loose, do you think his widow is going to say: ``Gee, my husband, Joe, sure was dumb. He didn't follow safety procedures''; or, ``See you in court!''?
And what are you going to say to yourself when you look at those crying toddlers clinging to her legs: ``Gosh, those kids sure do make a racket!'' or ``I could have prevented this tragedy from happening''?
According to the government, the employer is responsible for the safety and welfare of his employees, and you will never get out from under this responsibility. You will always be the one who could have prevented a tragedy from happening if you don't insist safety procedures are followed.
There are several ways to get your technicians to work according to the rules.
First you have to establish them. You have to make safety part of your corporate culture. You have to adopt a value system that states unsafe behavior is not acceptable here. You have to take a hard line and be ready to fire people who don't buy into your safety values.
When I was president of Roadway Tire Co., I had strict rules regarding on-the-job behavior, which promoted safety, quality, and respectful treatment of all employees. Since fire is a great hazard in a retread plant, smoking was only permitted in the break room and office area.
I once had to fire an employee who was caught smoking in the retread plant. All the employees expected me to fire this individual since this rule had become part of the company's culture.
I also had to fire an associate who brought a gun to work, since that also was against one of the company's rules. (I don't mind saying that I was more than just a little bit scared of having to fire the gun-toter—especially after the incidents involving former disgruntled postal workers.)
But firing someone can be healthy. It gets rid of a poor performer and gets the attention of everyone who wasn't fired!
As a boss, your job of management is nothing more than motivating people. One of the best ways to do this is to involve those who are affected by your decisions.
For example, have your technicians participate in determining how jobs are performed. If they participate in the decision to require that safety equipment and safe practices are to be used, they are more likely to use them.
Don't forget that getting technicians to perform their jobs safely will save you money, since you pay for workers compensation insurance and for accidents your employees have on the job.
Be proactive and make folks understand that they and their welfare are important to you. You can't just hang a sign on your company's bulletin board that says, ``In Case of Injury, Notify Your Supervisor Immediately.'' Someone is bound to write under it, ``He'll kiss it and make it better.''
You also have to set an example. If you are ever out in a service truck or in the shop servicing tires and wheels, make sure that you always perform the job safely. If your employees think you don't take safety seriously, then why should they? Be sure you ``walk the talk.''
OSHA has many safety procedures it requires technicians to follow. Your employees will be taught all of them in ITRA's Commercial Tire Service Certification program. Below is a summary of OSHA's procedural requirements for mounting and demounting tires:
1. Remove the valve core to completely deflate tires before demounting them.
2. Completely deflate a multi-piece tire/rim assembly before removing it from the vehicle if the inflation pressure is 80 percent or less of the recommended pressure.
3. Tires are to be mounted only on compatible rims/wheels having matching bead diameter and approved width.
4. If you cannot identify the rim or rings by size and type, they must be scrapped.
5. Never use a flammable substance to seat the bead.
6. Inflate tires only when in a restraining device. And use a clip-on air chuck when adding air to multi-piece-wheel-mounted tires that are on the vehicle and have over 80 percent of their recommended pressure. Tires on single-piece wheels may be inflated if bolted on a vehicle with the lug nuts fully tightened.
7. When a tire on a multi-piece rim is being partially inflated without using a restraining device, inflate only to a pressure great enough to round out the tube or seat the flange (approximately 3 psi).
8. If, after inflation, adjustment of the tire and rim/wheel components of a multi-piece assembly is necessary, the assembly must be completely deflated by removing the valve core before the adjustment is made. Never attempt to correct the seating of side or lock rings by hammering or forcing the components while the tire is inflated.
9. Never rework, braze, weld or otherwise heat cracked, broken or damaged rim/wheel components.
10. Tires must not be inflated on the floor or where any other solid surface is within one foot of the tire's sidewall.
11. All persons must stay out of the wheel and air blast trajectory when tires are being inflated either on a vehicle or in a restraining device. Also stand clear of the wheel and air blast trajectory when handling multi-piece rims/wheels.
12. Never inflate above 40 psi to seat the bead on single-piece rims/
13. If a tire-changing machine is used to mount tires on single-piece wheels, the tire can be inflated only to the minimum pressure necessary to force the tire bead onto the rim ledge—while still on the machine.
14. If a bead expander is used, it must be removed as soon as the assembly becomes airtight.
15. Tires must not be inflated to more than the pressure molded on their sidewall or the maximum pressure of the rim/wheel used.
16. Current safety and matching charts or rim manuals containing instructions for the type of wheels being serviced must be available in the service area.
Take charge of your business and make safety part of your company's culture.