Keeping your maintenance shop safe is probably a high priority for you—and if it's not it should be. Nothing can shatter the productivity and morale of a shop like a workplace accident, and a safety audit conducted by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) can upset your operations for days or weeks.
The State of West Virginia's Department of Transportation (WVDOT) has taken a proactive approach to workplace safety, by addressing the crucial issue of tire safety. That's why the WVDOT recently brought in a professional tire safety instructor from the Tire Industry Association (TIA).
Most fleet maintenance managers are aware of OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.177, that states, in part, "The employer shall provide a program to train all employees who service rim wheels in the hazards involved in servicing those rim wheels and the safety procedures to be followed". But not every shop complies, according to TIA director of tire service Jeff Faubion.
"The tire industry for years has been driven by speed," Faubion explains. "Management thinks, 'An eight mount, off and on the vehicle should be in and out of the shop in an hour.' And we have to slow our people down to do things safe and right."
Faubion spent two days in June in Buckhannon, WV, training 28 technicians, supervisors and trainers from WVDOT service centers around the state to slow down and do things right.
"It's just like the difference between preventive maintenance and demand maintenance on their vehicles," he explains. "They're doing preventive maintenance on their employees, to prevent them from having to do mandatory maintenance dictated by OSHA after an accident. Then they get double-dinged: not only do they have to do the training, they get fined by OSHA. And the civil suit follows that. So, it's a matter of being reactive or proactive."
REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE
Over the course of two days, Faubion covers every aspect of 1910.177, so that each technician can be tested and certified in tire safety. He travels all over the country, at the behest of TIA, and he never seems to run out of technicians to train.
"I'm not surprised that this many people still need training because of the turnover," he says. "The turnover is so high, I don't think we'll ever run out of people to train."
It's a good thing, then, that Faubion enjoys spreading the word about tire safety. He's changed tires for both tire dealers and fleets, and he has no problem listing some typical tire safety mistakes he sees in fleet maintenance shops:
- "The most common is not wearing safety glasses. Kids don't like wearing safety glasses, so they put them on their hat, put them on the back of their neck, put them in their pocket, put them on the bench, whatever. Damage to eyes is one of the most common injuries."
- "Back injuries are huge, mainly because of the way people pick up tires. Most of the people in our industry, they're young kids, and they're strong, but they reach down and start lifting these 150 lb. tires and they wind up injuring their backs. Teaching proper lifting practices is a big point that I push: lift with your legs and not your back."
- "Keeping the wheels on properly. Teaching these guys to torque lug nuts is super important, but not that many people do it. And that includes the retorquing—this is important because, if lug nuts have been overtorqued before, like a lot of them have in the U.S., they've stretched the lug nuts and the studs so far that if you torque them to where they're supposed to be, then they will loosen up. If they use the retorquing, they will find that and fix the problem by replacing the studs and lug nuts or looking at them and examining them and finding out why. If you just crank them down with an impact wrench, you're doing damage to a lot of things. You're overworking your compressor, you're damaging your employee's hearing—just working in a tire shop without hearing protection is dangerous enough."
- "Tire repairs—you can still go into shops and see them plugging tires, which amazes me, because of the liabilities. On every package of plugs that you buy, it states that it is a temporary repair, and people put them on tires and think that they last forever."