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Published on July 30, 2001

Forum: Tire safety tip: Assume nothing

During the past few months, I've read several reports of injuries due to passenger tire ruptures. Almost everyone is aware of the dangers associated with truck tires and multi-piece rims and the measures that must be taken to help prevent injuries, but passenger tires also must be approached with caution.

For example, a customer brought in a tire that was losing air pressure and asked the shop to determine where the leak was, repair it, and then reinflate the tire. The tire was not on the vehicle when it was brought in.

The tire technician inflated the tire and then submerged it in water to locate the leak. There were no signs of a leak, so the technician placed the tire back into the trunk of the customer's car.

The customer then inquired what the air pressure was and asked that it be reduced. As the technician attempted to remove the tire from the trunk, it exploded from the rim and broke his arm.

Apparently, the bead failed at the same time that the technician was retrieving the tire.

The accident was thoroughly investigated and it was determined that the following precautions were needed in order to prevent future incidents from occuring:

Break down all tires for inspection during repair requests. Evidence of tire damage often can be seen on the inside of the tire that possibly did not show externally.

Presume that all tires have been run flat. Running a tire flat will weaken the sidewalls and allow for possible failure when inflating the tire.

Ask customers if their tires were run flat and let them know why you're concerned-not only for the safety of employees but their safety as well.

Use remote (hands-free) inflation devices whenever possible.

Don't assume air pressure gauges are accurate. They should be checked periodically to insure accuracy and prevent over-inflating tires. (This becomes an even greater hazard as tire pressures increase.)

As much as possible, keep away from the tire's sidewalls in the event that a tire should fail.

Always wear eye protection so that if a tire does fail, debris will not fly into your eyes, causing injury.

The use of tire cages may not always be practical for passenger car tires, but should be considered during tire inflation activities. As tire sizes increase, the required use of tire cages also should increase.

Assure that controls are in place to help identify tires with unique rim sizes since the installation of a tire slightly larger than the rim may appear to fit snugly but fail during inflation. On the other hand, attempting to install a slightly smaller tire onto a larger rim could cause damage to the tire and lead to eventual failure.

Refuse to do the work if the customer won't cooperate with the safety process you are attempting to implement. Timing is everything, and there is no way to determine when a tire could fail and cause severe personal injury or property damage.

All of us are pressed for time and sometimes take the route that requires less trouble in order to complete a task. But you never know when your luck will run out. Taking the safe route generally results in a better job and often requires little additional time.

Mr. Hultman, with Amerisure Mutual Insurance Co. of Farmington Hills, Mich., originally penned the article for Tar Heel Tire Topics, the monthly newsletter of the North Carolina Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association. (Used with permission.)

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