Scrap tire processors are twice tried as to safety. Besides the real problems they face in that area, they also must battle public and insurance industry perceptions that the problems are much worse than they actually are.
Speakers at the Rubber Recycling 2002 conference in Montreal Oct. 23-25 gave the audience useful tips on how to improve safety while keeping insurance costs down.
News reports of tire fires, explosions, disease-breeding mosquitoes and other calamities have made insurance both expensive and hard to get for scrap tire processors, according to William S. Fink of Rolf Jensen & Associates Inc., a Denver-based fire and security engineering consulting firm.
Insurance premium costs rose an average of 130 percent for scrap tire facilities this year, with fewer services and higher deductibles than before, Mr. Fink noted.
``There's a perception of a poor loss history for the scrap tire industry, and in the insurance industry perception is reality,'' he said. ``It used to be that if you were building a plant, your insurance agent would be glad to underwrite it. He's not willing to do that anymore.''
What an insurance company wants when it writes a policy for a scrap tire recycler is ``lots and lots of information,'' according to Mr. Fink. Recycling companies should get underwriting reports when it's time to buy or renew a policy, regurgitating all the facts about the facility.
``Emphasize your strong points, particularly your fire prevention program,'' he said. ``Don't roll over and play dead, or they'll run you into the ground.''
Having a strong fire prevention program and performing at least annual maintenance on fire prevention equipment are vital, Mr. Fink explained. An infrared system for sensing high-temperature spots early is particularly impressive to insurers.
Yet upgrading your fire prevention system may not always be the best option. ``Beware of supplier specifications, because for some of them-particularly some of the mom-and-pop operations-the specs aren't worth the paper they're printed on,'' he said. ``Also, evaluate the lowest bid carefully, because it won't necessarily be the most maintenance-free.''
With 112 people dying of the West Nile virus this year in the U.S. alone, getting rid of the mosquitoes that carry the virus has become a top priority throughout North America, said Christian Back, vice president of R&D for consulting firm GDG Environment.
While the vast majority of mosquitoes that breed in tire piles aren't of the species that normally carry the West Nile virus, enough of those species can turn up in tire piles to make it crucial to prevent any mosquitoes from breeding there, according to Mr. Back.
Generally, mosquitoes breed in large expanses of temporary water or the margins of permanent bodies of water, but stagnant water in scrap tires can also be breeding grounds, he said. ``Shallow pools and tree trunks are like cottages in the country to mosquitoes,'' he said. ``Tire piles are like downtown Montreal.''
Simply moving tires from one place to another can disrupt mosquitoes' life and breeding cycles sufficiently, according to Mr. Back. ``But when you bale tires, you essentially destroy mosquitoes' ability to breed,'' he said.
GPG's own testing bore out this hypothesis, Mr. Back said. In a comparison between baled tires, tires that had traveled from one place to another and tires that had been allowed to stand undisturbed, researchers counted only one mosquito emanating from the baled tires. This compared with 37 from the traveled tires and 196 from the untraveled ones.