The dangers involved in wheel removals and replacements on all forklifts with pneumatic tyres have become a matter of concern within the materials handling industry. The recent and unfortunate death of a wheel fitter in NSW as a result of a five-piece split rim wheel assembly exploding on a container handling reach stacker is not the first incident of this nature to occur, leading to the question whether these injuries and fatalities can be prevented.
MLA Holdings’ big truck range of 16000kg lifting capacity and above is usually equipped with multi-piece rims and pneumatic tyres, which can potentially create a safety issue for maintenance people working on these trucks if precautions are ignored. Safety regulations require the tyre to be fully deflated, removing all the inside air pressure before removing a wheel from a heavy truck or container handler.
Removing a tyre full of air pressure exposes the technician or tyre fitter to a catastrophic wheel explosion with disastrous consequences.
MLA’s National Engineering Manager, Gary Cassel who has worked in the industry for 48 years states that it is of prime importance for frontline people in the mobile equipment maintenance field to be able to identify the hazards associated with the task and be capable and vigilant about implementing measures to mitigate the risks of the associated hazards to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
MLA Holdings’ wheel and tyre safety brochure lists out the precautions to be taken while removing and replacing tyres on heavy mobile equipment.
Safely removing wheels:
- Park the truck on level ground in a safe working area
- Chock the wheels
- Isolate the ignition and batteries
- Jack up the truck at the jack points and secure with an axle support device (Do not rely on just the jack)
- Before removing any wheel nuts fully deflate all tyres that are to be removed
- Remove the wheel nuts and use a suitable lifting device to remove the wheel
- Inspect the tyre and rim for damage and cracking, reject if faulty
- Place wheel into tyre safety cage and inflate to recommended inflation pressure, inspect wheel for defects then fully deflate the tyre, remove from tyre safety cage and rectify any defects found
- Use a suitable lifting device to place the wheel onto the truck and tighten wheel nuts in correct sequence to recommended torque setting
- Place a protection device near the wheel assembly to minimise the trajectory zone
- Inflate the tyre to the recommended inflation pressure from outside the trajectory zone
- Inspect the wheel for defects, reject if faulty
- Remove the protection device, axle support device and jack
- Test run truck and retighten wheel nuts in correct sequence to recommended torque setting
- Return the truck to service
- After 10 hours of use, retighten wheel nuts in correct sequence to recommended torque setting
While this safety instruction provides a positive solution to the problem, it won’t fix it unless technicians and wheel fitters recognise the hazards and are vigilant when working on heavy trucks and container handlers.