10 Safety Tips When Using Heavy Equipment

Heavy equipment can make for a very impressive, and intimidating sight. Resembling large beasts of metal and wire, these constructs enable humans to complete tasks that would otherwise be impossible. However as with any powerful tool, caution must be taken when handling construction equipment.

It's important to stay safe when handling any type of heavy equipment including lifts, excavators, etc. This is especially true if you're new to handling heavy equipment and machinery. Here are 10 tips to keep you, everyone around you, and the equipment safe.

1. Ensure you have the proper training before you even get on the piece of equipment.

Before even mounting a piece of equipment, be sure you know how the machine operates. The best way to do this is to review the manufacturer's operation and maintenance manual. An improperly or under trained worker poses a danger to himself and others on a jobsite. Be sure to detail what you'll be doing with the equipment to the professionals that you're renting from. They'll be chock full of expert-filled advice.

2. Be extremely careful when mounting a construction vehicle.

What is the most common injury related to the construction workplace? Falling bricks? Cranes tipping over? Runaway jackhammers? Actually the most common construction related injuries are those that come from getting on and off the machines.* Thus it is important when boarding a vehicle to ensure that you are wearing gloves and boots and have a secure grip on the rungs of the vehicle. In rainy or muddy conditions, exercise additional caution as hand holds or steps are harder to grip.

3. Ensure there are no people in the operation area.

People love to watch construction machinery in action. Even if this means crowding around a backhoe as it does nothing more than dig a hole. Any experienced equipment operator knows this creates a high risk environment when a group of onlookers are around these powerful machines. Ground operators should stand clear of a machine in operation, in order to minimize the chance of injury to themselves. Machine operators should use their horn or communication channels to warn those on the ground to stand clear.

4. Always wear protective gear.

Protective gear includes hard hat, goggles, fall gear, and more. It always better to be proactive than reactive. Wearing protective gear is a key example of this. By wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), a construction worker greatly reduces the risk of common mishaps on construction sites. Common protective equipment includes high visibility vests, hard hats, gloves, goggles, and fall protection equipment. Though it may seem cumbersome, the purpose of the gear is for the wearer's well being.

5. Never exceed the prescribed payload of the vehicle.

Every machine has a corresponding manufacturer's manual for operation and maintenance. In this document, the max payload that a vehicle can handle is outlined. Never exceed a machine's payload as this greatly increases the risk of malfunctions such as machine upset or even machine rollover.

6. When operating a machine, wear your seat belt.

Though it may seem more applicable to operating an automobile. The mantra of wearing your seat belt is true for construction vehicles as well. Though there are many supposed defenses for not wearing a seat belt, it could save an operator's life. In the event of a rollover (in which the construction machine falls over due to some malfunction), the seat belt could be the sole determinant between life and death.

7. Be vigilant when backing a construction vehicle.

Moving a large piece of machinery forward can pose some dangers. Moving it in reverse only increases the riskiness of the situation. When backing a vehicle, the operator must ensure that there are no obstacles or people behind them. To do this it may be necessary that the operator exit the vehicle and physically check to be sure the perimeter is secure. In addition, observing the mirrors while moving backwards should allow the operator to be situationally aware.

8. Be aware of overhead or subterranean obstructions.

Many obstructions can pose dangerous risks to a machine operator, some of which are not easily visible. An operator should especially be cautious of hard to see power lines, overhead clearances, or underground utility lines. Before digging, be sure to perform site research to ensure there are no underground pipelines or other subterranean obstructions that could pose risks to machine operators. Avoiding these common obstacles can ensure a construction site is safe and does not incur extra damages.

9. Keep an eye open for a construction vehicles' blind spots.

Let's revisit the car analogy. Like any automobile, construction vehicles have areas that cannot be scene by simply using the mirrors in the operator's cabin. In order to accurately gauge that these areas are free of obstructions or people, an operator must physically leave the cabin and perform a visual inspection. Though it may seem tedious, these visual inspections greatly reduce the risk of an accident occurring on the construction site.

10. Communication is key.

A well designed communication system is arguably the best safeguard against construction related accidents. Whether through two way radios, walkie-talkies, or some other system, effective communication is crucial for preventing workplace accidents. Communicating the current status of a construction site allows all operators present to stay informed and to stay out of harm's way.


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