Staying safe around heavy equipment

| December 4, 2013

Here at MySafetySign, we sometimes feature guest blog posts written by our expert readers who are out there in the field and on the job sites every day, keeping workers safe. This post comes from Bill Jaworksi, who writes for Rock & Dirt

Safety should always be a primary concern at any construction site. However, it’s often an even higher concern at job sites where heavy equipment is being used and operated. There are extra risks associated with the use of heavy equipment and that makes it necessary to take added safety precautions before, during, and after any use of these machines.

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Heavy equipment (construction) – a Caterpillar...

Photo from Wikipedia

Before: It’s important to check your equipment often

The first set of safety precautions to consider involves taking premeditated steps before operating any heavy equipment. The best way to stay safe around construction equipment is to prepare properly before using it.

One of the first steps is making sure that the operator has access to and extensive knowledge of the operator’s manual. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important that they review this manual prior to any use of equipment; this can prevent the dangers associated with misuse.

Another problem area is getting in and out of the equipment. Again, this may seem simple, but there are some very real dangers here and taking the necessary safety precautions can protect against them. The first thing to do is conduct a vehicle inspection prior to use. This should include checking that the equipment has been serviced recently and that everything is working properly.

It’s also important to check all steps and handrails to ensure they’re clean and free from debris, since dirty treads or grease-covered handrails can cause slips or falls. The best safety practice is for workers to maintain three points of contact when entering or exiting equipment.

It is also imperative to institute safety precautions for all ground workers that will be working around the equipment. Ensure that the swing radius for the equipment is set up and that all ground workers are aware of it. It may also be necessary to establish a set of hand signals between equipment operators and ground workers when using equipment that requires hearing protection.

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pile driver by the side of the road

Photo from S. Smith

During: Ground workers can be at risk

It is equally important to maintain the proper safety procedures while actually operating heavy machinery. First, as with any piece of moving equipment, the operator should always wear a seat belt.

All heavy equipment and machinery should be equipped with a Roll Over Protection System (ROPS). However, even with a ROPS, operators should avoid driving equipment parallel to steep grades to prevent the risks associated with roll overs.

Continued communication with ground workers is essential. Always use a spotter when backing up to make sure everyone is clear of equipment. Spotters can also be helpful for alerting operators of trenches or holes. The aforementioned hand signals can be used effectively here.

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After: Proper shutdown is critical

Finally, it’s critically important to shut down equipment properly and safely after use.

When operators are finished using the equipment, operators should first lower any attachments and put the transmission in neutral. Next, ensure the parking brake is set and turn off the engine before exiting the equipment.

Check that the equipment is clear of any traffic or debris. If it is not, mark all impediments accordingly so that they are easily recognizable.

Construction sites where heavy equipment is present require unique safety precautions and procedures. These safety measures must be taken and considered before, during, and after operation of heavy equipment. Following the guidelines listed here creates a safer and better work site for everyone.


About the author
Bill Jaworski is a former construction manager who has turned to writing as it is much easier on his back. When he’s not writing about safety and other issues related to the construction industry, Bill enjoys spending time with his grandkids. 


Category: Construction, Guest Post