The beginning of a new year is a good time to renew your commitment to the kind of training that enables technicians to to their jobs competently, efficiently, and safely.

An excellent first step is to recognize and communicate that these three objectives are not at odds with one another. Working safely requires organization, which is closely related to efficiency. Documentation of workplace organization, consistent operating procedures, and prominent display of industry reference charts and training records may also prove valuable in the event of an injury that results in an investigation or legal action.

An excellent compilation of the safety, maintenance, and operating procedures recommended by numerous wheel, rim, and related hardware manufacturers is available from the National Wheel and Rim Assn. (www.nationalwheelandrim.org or whlandrim@aol.com). The Rubber Manufacturers Assn. (www.rma.org) publishes tire-related safety information, and the Tire Association of North America offers training and certification programs.

Part of the regimen of workplace safety is dictated by law and government regulations; non-compliance can result in penalties. For example, OSHA has issued specific requirements for servicing wheels, rims, and tires. Although OSHA safety requirements are mandatory in all states and territories of the U.S., some local authorities have additional or more stringent rules.

It's important to go beyond the basics, however. For example, training should include procedures for chocking, jacking and stabilizing heavy equipment, as well as standardized vehicle or machinery tag and lockout procedures. It should also cover all equipment technicians might have to work on, not just the machines or vehicles that take up the majority of their time.

Pay attention to the “safety warnings” that are included in the original packaging of most tools. Limits for loading, air or hydraulic pressures, lift heights, and other restrictions are often specified; make sure technicians are aware of them. Any special devices, fixtures, or other types of homemade or individual tool designs that are used in routine tasks should also be covered in regularly scheduled training sessions.

When you create a training program, ask yourself what you would want to know about a device or procedure if you were encountering it for the first time. Remember to give laws, published regulations, and mandatory logbooks top priority. Use published industry guidelines, charts, and training materials whenever possible. Finally, follow the directions that accompany the operating manuals of individual tools or operating processes.

Document your training procedures and review and update them regularly. One of the most important aspects of training is effective communication. One veteran trainer defines effective training as communication to the point of willing understanding by the recipient. Recognize that equipment that is routinely used in a safe manner by those with experience or a high level of mechanical aptitude may be much more challenging to those with less training, skill, or understanding.

Some large companies employ specialists to ensure workplace compliance with laws and regulations related to safety. There are also individual consultants specializing in compliance programs. Many industry suppliers also offer, or can recommend, training programs, materials, and certification testing.

Remember, trying to defend the circumstances surrounding accidents is always more costly and time consuming than preventing them.