A report by the Michigan Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program shows that a 61-year-old truck driver died after he was thrown back onto a concrete floor when air was released from a pressurized tire sidewall failure.
The victim’s truck had a flat inside-left tire on its rear axle. After trying to inflate the tire, the two mechanics working on the tire used a jack to raise the rear of the truck to take pressure off the tire.
After several more unsuccessful attempts to inflate the tire, they removed the outer tire. They attempted again to inflate the flat tire and were successful, but could hear air leaking from it. One of the mechanics asked the victim to release the air brake.
The tire was rotated and a piece of metal was found. The mechanic was positioned to the right of the tire when the victim walked up to the left, presumably to point out the metal. The mechanic warned the victim to move away while he removed the air chuck.
The sidewall of the pressurized tire failed, releasing pressurized air. The force of the air from the “explosion” launched the driver backward. He landed about 12 feet away on his back and struck his head on the concrete floor.
The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he died.
The maintenance area was a closed bay area where drivers were not authorized to enter, and drivers were not generally responsible for the maintenance of their trucks.
However, due in part to some of the trucks being owned by independent owner/operators who wanted their drivers to be able to observe and assist in maintenance and repair of their trucks, drivers oftentimes entered the maintenance area while their trucks were under repair.
The report goes on to state that if a truck driver or owner/operator requests that the driver be present in the maintenance area with the truck during repair services, the driver should undergo safety training and become an authorized employee.
In this instance, the employee should have been required to be trained and authorized to be in the maintenance area, or kept out of the area entirely. In either case, his death would likely have been prevented.
The company now uses training and posted signs to inform drivers that they are not allowed into the maintenance area, and combination locks on the doors to ensure unauthorized personnel do not enter.
Safety recommendations by MIOSHA include:
- Ensure only properly trained and authorized employees can access the maintenance area;
- Use best safety practices, such as a tire cage, when performing tire maintenance, and
provide training on the procedures; and
- Perform routine inspections of tire integrity.