Safety Tips for OTR Tire Inspections and Service Calls

Safety Tips for OTR Tire Inspections and Service Calls

How OTR Tire Personnel Can Safely Inspect and Service Tires  

Selling and servicing OTR tires presents some unique risks to personnel in the field. From the massive size and weight of mining and construction equipment to the unfavorable conditions they tend to operate in—often at night and in all types of weather—OTR salespeople, field service engineers, and technicians commonly face a complex environment with numerous potential hazards.

Prioritizing safety and following a few best practices when inspecting tires in the field are simple steps toward preventing mishaps and ensuring everyone returns home safe and sound at the end of the day.

Tips for Inspecting OTR Tires On-Site 

Checking the air pressure, inspecting wear, and servicing tires on equipment in the field gives dealers a firsthand perspective on the terrain, duty cycles, and other challenges facing their customers. On-site inspections allow dealers to make well-informed tire recommendations and ultimately help their customers improve upon key performance indicators (KPIs)—such as cost per hour, the total cost of ownership, and uptime—while service is a valuable component of a tire dealer's business.

Dealers who visit customers where they work also set themselves apart from their competition—they’re not just offering a product, they’re providing expertise. This adds value for their customer. Even better, if you have a tracking program in place, that value is demonstrable.

Before even touching a tire, make sure to set your site visit up for success by taking these simple steps to ensure a safer visit.

Safe and Secure Location 

Haul trucks and loaders range in weight anywhere from 50,000 pounds to over 500,000 pounds. Ideally, OTR tire personnel will inspect heavy equipment tires in a safe location away from moving or working machines and on a hard, flat, level surface. The ideal inspection site is also located away from highwalls—vertical walls and extremely steep slopes—to eliminate the hazard of loose rocks, dirt, and debris looming above. Highwalls account for 9% of fatalities in mines. Optimally, the site is also free from distractions to both the equipment operator and the person performing the tire inspection. 

Place cones around equipment to create a safe zone and use tire chocks to help stop machinery from rolling during service. Blocking on jacks can improve the stability of raised equipment, which is critical—improper jacking and cribbing cause a substantial percentage of OTR service injuries. 

Conditions at a service call are not always perfect and at times the nature of the call will dictate where the tire service takes place. In these cases, tire techs need to take extra care and understand what risks are acceptable, when to ask customers to go through the time and expense of relocating the downed equipment, or even when to decline service for safety’s sake. 

Running Equipment 

Busy mine sites and other 24/7 operations with non-stop duty cycles may require OTR personnel to inspect tires while equipment is idling. In these situations, it’s critical that OTR tire inspectors know the rules and procedures for stopping and holding equipment or that they pair themselves with someone extremely familiar with them. At the conclusion of the inspection, it’s essential that everyone is accounted for and safely out of the way before the equipment is allowed to move again.

Crane Usage 

OTR tire techs rely on hydraulic cranes which make maneuvering heavy tires into position easier but can also create risk. These specialists should receive regular training on the proper maintenance, operation, and application of the lift machinery (like only using it to lift tires). 

It’s also important that service techs know the maximum weight hydraulic cranes can carry at different distances and to stay within those limits—all it takes is a quick calculation. A sticker on the crane’s mast should specify the maximum load it can carry and at what distances, while the TIA has a list of the average weight of most OTR tires, rims, and components.

High-Pressure Situations 

The massive size of heavy machinery means that OTR tires contain a large volume of highly pressurized air. A 26.5x25 tire at 90 psi has 373,650 foot-pounds of stored energy and, if released instantly, it can launch an average size person 1,868 feet. In addition to the threat of potential injuries (or worse) from debris and tools hurled by a catastrophic pressure release, the shock waves created by it can result in damage to the eyes, ears, sinuses, and lungs. 

When inflating tires on site, it’s imperative that everyone knows—and stays out of—the trajectory zone. OSHA defines the trajectory zone as “any potential path or route that a rim wheel component may travel during an explosive separation or sudden release of the air pressure, or an area at which an airblast from a single piece rim wheel may be released.”

According to OSHA, any tire that’s been operated at 80% or less of its recommended operating pressure should be demounted and inspected before being reinflated in a cage and put back into service. Also, OSHA warns against inflating tires past 40 psi to seat their beads. If a tire’s bead doesn’t seat at 40 psi, stop, deflate the tire, and determine the problem before reinflating. 

Always Alert

The best strategy for staying safe on an in-the-field inspection is to always remain aware of the terrain, equipment, and people around you. Constant vigilance—paying attention to the surroundings and understanding potential risks—can significantly improve the odds of a safe service call.

Safety is Priority Number One 

OTR salespeople, field service engineers, and technicians have a lot of objectives when visiting customers on-site, such as increasing tire performance and improving customer satisfaction. That said, the ultimate goal of a site visit is to safely return home at the end of the day. When visiting a customer, make certain to slow down, take your time, and go the extra mile to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. Shortcuts are the fastest way to a problem. For everything from questions about tire and rim safety to best practices to training, consult the Tire Industry Association (TIA)—as they say, tire safety starts there.