Safety is critical in the construction industry. Establish and follow a safety mindset as you and your operators use, maintain and transport heavy equipment — specifically excavators, wheel loaders and articulated dump trucks (ADTs).
As an equipment owner, it’s up to you to communicate and promote workplace safety that reduces the risk of injuries. Follow these tips for a jobsite that can handle any safety issue without missing a beat.
Training and Education: Key to Improving Safety
First, all operators need proper education and a general understanding of basic operating procedures for a machine’s controls, gauges, signals, indicators and monitor displays before operating — whether in a classroom or hands-on training.
Review the manufacturer’s Operation & Maintenance Manual. Every new machine should include a copy of the manual. The manual serves as a primary guide for proper operation and maintenance. It is provided upon delivery from your local dealership. Keep manuals in the machine’s cab for quick reference. An electronic copy, such as a PDF, may be available to access on a smartphone or tablet for easy access.
Make sure operators review all safety and instructional decals.
Do this prior to heavy equipment operation and maintenance. Some manufacturers strategically place decals on the interior and exterior of heavy equipment to alert workers about potential hazards and the consequences of injury. Replace decals that become worn, damaged or missing.
Review safety manuals from The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).
These are available in print and digital formats and also serve as complementary references on proper operating practices. AEM, a trade association, provides global services to companies that manufacture equipment, products and services.
Your local dealership can also provide hands-on equipment training.
Service technicians have the product knowledge and experience to help troubleshoot and maintain a machine. They understand and can articulate recent technology updates, encourage demonstrations and show you how to get the best performance from your machine.
What Types of PPE Should You Consider?
Universal workplace safety guidelines, such as wearing protective clothing and protection equipment, are key for construction workers, too.
Personal protection equipment (PPE) on your next construction project may include the following:
- Hard hat
- Safety shoes
- Safety glasses
- Heavy gloves
- Hearing protection
- Reflective clothing
Check local requirements for construction sites to comply with PPE standards. Standards may vary by location and jobsite situations.
Always use the grab handles and steps that are provided for a three-point contact when entering and exiting the machine. Also, always wear tight-fitting clothing that cannot get caught on working components or on the machine. Always use the seatbelt, too.
Get Familiar With Safety-Boosting Features
Heavy equipment can be highly technical, so it’s crucial for your operators to understand advanced features.
For example: Auto idle automatically reduces regine rpm when machine functions aren’t used for a set amount of time. Auto shutdown, another feature on some models, completely shuts the engine down after a period of inactivity. Both features reduce noise, letting your team protect workers by allowing clearer communication.
Using rearview or sideview cameras, travel alarms/backup alarms, work lights, mirrors or a horn can also create safer working conditions — depending on the attachments used, jobsite conditions or applicable workplace safety rules.
Improving safety with cameras helps reduce the risk of injuries on a construction project.
Make sure you and your operators understand multi-functional displays too. Display panels show critical machine data, such as speed, rpm, transmission gear, machine warnings, coolant temperature and transmission oil temperature. Some manufacturers offer display panels that provide machine parameters while showing the rearview or sideview camera angle.
How To Safely Use Attachments
Use the correct attachment for the task. Work with your dealership to determine the right attachment for the machine to best fit the application. Knowing the machine’s specifications before pairing an attachment can help reduce operator hazards and increase productivity.
Your operators should be able to see the attachment easily from a normal seated position in the cab. Being able to comfortably see the attachment out front — with good up-front and peripheral sight of the tires or tracks — and having an unobstructed view of the machine’s rear are critical to proper heavy equipment operation.
Why Maintenance Is a Safety Issue
Routine maintenance programs are safety programs.
That’s why all operators should know how to complete routine maintenance with the necessary skills and tools.
Granted, some maintenance may need to be completed by an authorized equipment dealership.
But typical maintenance procedures, found in the Operation & Maintenance Manual, can be performed without any specific technical training.
Before working, operators should take a few minutes to walk around their machine to identify potential problems:
- Check for broken, missing or damaged parts; make necessary repairs.
- Check for damaged or missing safety or instructional decals; replace them if needed.
- Check tires for cuts, tearing or over-inflation.
- Check wheels for damaged rims and missing or loose wheel nuts or bolts.
- Review tracks for broken or damaged pins, bushings or other track parts.
- Replace worn or damaged tires or tracks.
- Check the fluid levels, including engine hydraulic oil and coolants.
- Look for evidence of leaks, have any leaks repaired and fill fluid to proper level.
- Remove any flammable debris from the engine compartment and battery box, around exhaust components, under the machine and around rotating parts.
- Inspect lights, cab glass, side mirror and rearview camera (if available) for damage.
- Clean and inspect all walking surfaces, steps and grab handles.
- Ensure that the Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) and Falling Object Protective Structure (FOPS) are in good condition.
Storing your machine for winter? Check out our before-and-after storage checklists for your machines.
Heavy equipment can be highly technical, so it’s crucial your operators understand advanced features.