by Jeremy Helton Tennessee Field Rep.

The logging industry has some common recurring themes when it comes to claims. One we have recently seen rolling through the claims department is injuries to employees while changing skidder tires. Equipment tires have a funny way of knowing when you are having a bad day while adding insult to injury; they usually wait to fail in inconvenient locations. Situations like these cause immense pressure and stress, which can lead to poor decisions regarding safety.

Take a deep breath, step back, ask yourself a few questions, and identify the dangers before getting started.

• Have I notified the rest of the crew, so they are aware that we are out of action and there is a man on the ground? If not, communicate with them. One of the leading causes of loss for equipment operators is when they are outside of their equipment.

• Is it possible to safely move the equipment to an easily accessible area such as the loading deck or a trailer staging area? If so, move it. Moving equipment to a site like this makes it easier for a tire service, your service truck, and other equipment to be readily available to help.

• Who is available to help me? It is always a good idea to have another pair of hands around in the woods. Many times, accidents occur, and it takes hours for the injured person to be discovered. Be wise and ask for help.

• Is my equipment locked out? All equipment should be at a zero-energy state when being serviced or maintained. This means disabling ALL stored energy. You should make sure that the electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, and even gravity are accounted for. Wheels are designed to roll, and sometimes they do when it is not expected. It’s also important to block when removing a wheel and tire to keep equipment from tipping over. Please make sure you take gravity into account when disabling your equipment.

• Can I use a mechanical assist such as a service truck boom or other equipment to help remove the tire? Many of our recent injuries have occurred at this step of the process. Most bare skidder tires weigh somewhere around 1,000 pounds. To have something to compare that to the World Record for Deadlifting is roughly the same amount. While I will not attempt to lift either, I can assure you a barbell is a lot easier to grip, his surface is more even, and the weightlifter is much more prepared for that load. You can blow out multiple joints in your body trying to handle something that heavy. Trying to remove one by hand also increases the risk of it gaining momentum and rolling away or falling over onto you.

Having a flat in the woods will add stress to an already bad day, but a severe injury or death will extend well beyond that day. Many injuries in the logging woods happen when a crew is thrown out of sync from their typical routine. Knowing that, take time to slow down and think through scenarios while keeping safety top of mind.