WHSQ warns on tyre inflation explosion dangers

Transport worker died in September while inflating truck tyre

WHSQ warns on tyre inflation explosion dangers
WHSQ has reminded operators of the importance of tyre safety controls


Work safety authority Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) has issued a warning on tyre injury dangers after a truck driver was killed while inflating a tyre in September.

In its incident report, it notes that, while investigations are continuing, initial indications are the transport firm employee sustained fatal injuries when the tyre he was inflating exploded.

"Inflated tyres, particularly truck tyres, contain a large amount of stored energy," it explains.

"Tyres are designed to withstand this, but if they are damaged or have been used while flat (or significantly underinflated), they may fail.

"Tyre damage due to underinflation cannot always be detected by external inspection. If a tyre fails during inflation, the explosive force can be released resulting in a destructive air blast and the ejection of high-speed particles. If the wheel is not restrained, it can fly through the air.

"The rapid release of this explosive force from a ruptured tyre can result in serious injuries or even death."

The authority says on average there are 36 workers' compensation claims accepted for injuries relating to being hit or trapped or by an explosion involving vehicle wheels and tyres each year.

"Health and safety risks must be managed to eliminate danger. However, if it’s not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, then it should be minimised using the hierarchy of controls," it adds.

These include:

  • substituting the hazard with one that is of lesser risk – for example, if a truck tyre has been identified as underinflated while in use, do not immediately re-inflate the tyre in-situ. Instead, fully deflate the tyre and replace the wheel with a spare and have the tyre inspected by a competent person to determine if it is safe to put back into service.
  • isolating the hazard from workers: deflating tyres prior to them being removed from the machinery or vehicle and inflating tyres in a safety cage or other portable restraint device; never reach into the cage during inflation or deflation and always position the body to one side of it.
  • implementing engineering controls: for example, by fitting – long enough air hose with a clip-on valve nozzle and remote pressure gauge for workers to stay outside of an exclusion zone (i.e. the potential trajectory or explosion zone), and a remote dump valve that is capable of rapidly deflating the tyre in an emergency.

More on WHSQ's truck immobilisation efforts, here

Any remaining risk must then be minimised by using administrative controls such as:

  • have a regular tyre maintenance schedule which checks tyres for condition, matching, pressure, tread depth and wear patterns, as well as rims for corrosion or cracking
  • always follow the recommended tyre servicing procedures and ensure all workers undertaking these procedures are trained and follow them
  • inform, train and supervise staff in safe personal positioning and safe procedures during tyre inflation including actions when a potential tyre failure is identified
  • potential trajectory paths from a failure and exclusion zones have been identified
  • the wheel is inspected for damage and corrosion prior to the refitting of tyres
  • tyres (new or used) are inspected for defects
  • workers stand outside of any exclusion zones
  • tyres are only inflated to the recommended pressure
  • all safety cages, air-lines and associated equipment are suitable for the task and maintained in a safe working condition.

"If a residual risk remains, it must be minimised so far as reasonably practicable by using personal protective equipment (PPE). For example, wearing protective goggles or face shields when working on wheels or tyres," WHSQ adds.

On the compliance side, it notes in 2014, a company accepted an enforceable undertaking with a total minimum expenditure of $207,401 as an alternative to prosecution after a worker received serious facial fractures and another minor leg injuries when a tyre exploded as it was being inflated as they attempted to fit and inflate a tyre to a damaged truck rim.


An example of a failure in the side wall of a tyre commonly known as a zipper failure


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