Heavy equipment is a necessity on nearly every construction project. Unfortunately, they can be extremely dangerous when not used properly. Workers who utilize this kind of equipment should be adequately trained and possess the skills with proper handling of heavy equipment.
Accidents still happen despite the preparedness of any worker and work site managers. The number of reported injuries and fatalities involving heavy equipment is on the rise. To decrease incidents involving the operation of heavy equipment, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers ten different tips. Let’s take a closer look at how construction sites can properly manage their heavy equipment to lessen accident effects:
1. Determine on Which Blind Spot Should Be Avoided
It is crucial that heavy equipment operators know for certain that there is no one and nothing behind them before they back up. To avoid blind spots, the operator must sometimes physically get out of their machine and go to the back to look. Mirrors do not always provide a 360-degree breadth of vision. The short time it takes to hop off the machine and look may save a life.
2. Check if All Communication Tools Are Efficient
Always be in constant communication with the people working around you. A two-way radio is the best form of communication if that option is not available then use hand signals from a spotter who has been adequately trained.
Communication with operators should be evaluated at every safety meeting and reinforced by the foreman on site. Companies should invest in a productive and efficient communication device like walkie talkies and computers which are designed to transmit messages faster during accidents and other disruptions inside the worksite.
3. Wearing Seatbelts While Operating a Huge Equipment
In every vehicle, it is important to wear seat belts. This holds as true for heavy equipment as it does for cars and trucks. If the vehicle rolls, wearing a seat belt keeps the operator from being thrown from it. Seat belts save lives, employers must provide appropriate seat belts in heavy equipment as part of the regulations for worker protective gear. Employee failure to use seat belts can result in the employer’s receiving a citation from OSHA because the employee violates OSHA 29 C.F.R. 1926.602.
4. Use the Three-Point Rule for Mounting and Dismounting
Always be sure to be on level ground when loading or unloading your equipment. It dramatically reduces the risk of rollovers or sliding off the low-bed ramps. If you are unloading on a busy job site or high traffic area, make sure people are clear of the unloading area and use a spotter to guide you. Maintain three-point contact: use two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand to mount or dismount safely (learn more in this Safety Moment on Three-Point Contact).
5. Conduct a Visual Inspection Before Use of Equipment
Visually inspect heavy equipment before each use to ensure it’s in good operating condition. Check tires and tracks for any wear and damage. At the very least, you should check fluid levels such as engine oil and hydraulic fluid and oil levels before you start up the equipment for the first time each day. Check hydraulic hoses, buckets, booms and other components for cracks and damage. Make sure all attachments are securely locked into place to avoid any disruption during operational hours inside the worksite.
6. Only Use Equipment for its Intended Purpose
During training, most operations manager trains designated equipment workers who are skilled in operating heavy equipment. Each piece of equipment was designed to perform a specific task. Excavators aren’t cranes, and wheel loaders weren’t made to carry workers in the bucket and used as an aerial lift. Pick the right piece of equipment for the task at hand and use it as the manufacturer intended.
7. Avoid Unexpected Start-Up
Before conducting maintenance work on heavy equipment, the vehicle must be made inoperative by disconnecting the power source. OSHA’s lockout guidelines require that specific practices and procedures be followed for shutting down equipment. These procedures separate the machine from its energy source thus preventing potential hazardous start-up during maintenance procedures. Employers may develop lockout programs that best suit their workplace facilities.
8. Always Maintain a Safe Route for Heavy Equipment
Ideally, you can cordon off the area with barriers to keep workers from accidentally getting close to operating equipment. If you are moving or operating equipment near workers, use a spotter, a radio or hand signals to communicate and to keep your blind spots clear. This is especially important when backing up. While the equipment might have backup alarms, they often go unnoticed on construction sites due to the loud noise.
9. Overhead and Underground Hazards
Before work starts on any worksite, all over-head obstructions such as power lines and low clearance should be identified and flagged. Underground utilities such as water, sewer, gas, and electrical lines need to be located by the appropriate department and marked with color-coded paint. Be more cautious when getting close to the underground utility and hand dig to uncover. When leaving dugout holes that workers or the public can fall in to, be sure to set up barriers and snow fencing
10. Recognize Your Physical Limits
We all have different physical, mental, and emotional capabilities, and these change with age and experience. For your safety, and the safety of your co-workers, never put yourself in a situation where you are doing a task that you feel physically, mentally, or emotionally incapable. Express your concerns. Be extra careful in stressful job situations. Ask for clearer instructions. Request a spotter. Request that a more experienced operator complete a specific part of the job.
If you are looking for more tips on handling heavy equipment and how to ensure safety on your worksite, you may visit our website at www.progressivemy.com for more relevant articles.