Heavy equipment is at the forefront and backbone of the manufacturing, mining, and construction industries. High-capacity forklifts, bulldozers, and massive cranes empower companies to undertake huge projects. Despite the power of these machines, a considerable degree of responsibility must be adhered to in regard to heavy equipment safety.
Every single year, many lives are affected by accidents related to the use of heavy equipment. Teaching employees the importance of heavy equipment safety tips is an excellent way to mitigate some of the accidents that happen on the job. As a result, employees will feel safer and be able to thrive in their careers.
In this blog post, we’ll look closer at heavy equipment safety tips, the risks of heavy equipment, how to maintain a safe work environment, proper equipment maintenance and inspections, and some safety considerations to keep in mind.
Understanding the Risks Associated with Heavy Equipment Operation
Heavy equipment can pose a danger that some people don’t pay enough attention to. With a deeper understanding of the potential risks of heavy equipment operation, the well-being of everyone involved with this machinery will be better off. Let’s take a closer look at some of the risks of operating heavy equipment.
Accidents/collisions: Heavy equipment like excavators can range in weight from 3,500 pounds to over 2 million pounds. If operators don’t have good visibility and experience restricted maneuverability, they’re more likely to collide with other vehicles, infrastructure, or even people around the area. A collision with such a large piece of heavy equipment can result in serious injuries and even death.
Rollovers: When heavy equipment like cranes, excavators, or forklifts are operated on terrain that isn’t flat, they’re more prone to rolling over. This can pose a severe danger to everyone that’s around them.
Falling debris: In some situations, heavy equipment is used to develop very tall structures. Lifting materials at heights also increases the risk of the materials or even equipment falling to the ground. This is a risk that can cause harm to anyone on the ground below the heavy equipment.
Noise: The loud noises of heavy equipment is another risk that shouldn’t be overlooked. Extended exposure to loud noises can cause hearing loss.
Hazardous materials: In some industries, heavy equipment is used to haul around toxic substances, fuels, and chemicals. If safety precautions aren’t adhered to, exposure to these substances can cause serious health complications.
Mechanical failure: Like vehicles, heavy equipment is also prone to breaking down and experiencing mechanical failure at some point or another. Mechanical failure might involve hydraulic leaks, engine problems, or brake issues, and this can cause the equipment to act in ways it shouldn’t.
Weather: Operating heavy equipment in severe winds, rain, ice, or snow can compromise visibility and overall safe operation that can end up leading to accidents.
Essential Safety Tips for Operating Heavy Equipment
Abiding by construction equipment safety guidelines is the best way to reduce the risks related to operating these machines and being around them when they’re working.
Here are some equipment safety tips to keep in mind when operating heavy equipment or in the proximity of heavy equipment:
Training and Certification
Heavy equipment operators should undergo training programs to prove their knowledge of safety procedures, emergency protocols, and risk management. Additionally, the training programs operators undergo should also be qualified instructors who deeply understand the heavy equipment and its associated safety risks.
In the best-case scenario, operators should also attend routine refresher courses and training sessions to show they’re still up-to-date on the safe and effective operation of the machinery.
Before an operator gets in a piece of heavy equipment, they should always do pre-operation inspections to ensure everything is functioning how it should. That means they should take a close look at the following:
It almost goes without saying, but operators should also make sure their seat belt works and that they’re buckled in place before operating heavy equipment. Suppose they notice any defects while doing their initial inspection. In that case, the defects should be reported to the right personnel, and the use of heavy equipment should be refrained until the defects are addressed and resolved.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE should always be worn by operators and anyone working around heavy equipment. Some of the PPE that should be worn are:
Hard hat: A hard hat or helmet will prevent head injuries by material or debris falling from heights.
Visible clothing: Operators and personnel around heavy equipment should wear bright clothing to alert others of their presence.
Safety footwear: Slip-resistant, steel-toe boots are recommended to protect against foot injuries.
Hearing protection: Earplugs or earmuffs should be worn to protect ears from the loud sounds of heavy equipment.
Communication and Signaling
Proper communication protocols should be exercised by everyone involved with heavy equipment. That means that effective hand signals and two-way radios should be used to let operators know where you are at all times. Additionally, signaling devices like lights and alarms are a good way to let operators know your whereabouts.
Safe Equipment Operation Techniques
Lastly, there are some safe equipment operation techniques that should always be followed.
Safe operating zones: Always make sure that heavy equipment operating zones are clearly defined and outlined. Unauthorized personnel should be strictly prohibited from entering the area where the machines are operating.
Blind spots: Always be mindful of blind spots and do double checks in mirrors or cameras to reduce the chances of any accidents.
Steady operation: Don’t act erratically while operating heavy equipment. Ensure you’re not suddenly accelerating or braking while driving.
Maintaining a Safe Work Environment
Ensuring a safe work environment involves more than just following a few heavy equipment safety tips. There must be a collective effort from everyone involved on the work site.
Here are a couple of considerations to keep in mind to promote a safer work environment:
Clear the work area: Before heavy equipment is used, the entire work area should be free and clear of debris or any hazards that might hinder safe and effective operations. If there are hazards, they should be marked with visible tape so everyone can see them. Tools should be placed in their respective areas so they aren’t clogging down the worksite and becoming tripping hazards.
Lighting/visibility: Never operate heavy equipment in a dimly lit environment. Work areas should be brightly illuminated, and reflective materials should be used to alert operators of areas that have low light conditions. Traffic cones should also be used to guide operators in areas they shouldn’t be going into.
Emergency Preparedness and Response
There should always be an emergency and response plan set in place in case there is ever an accident on a worksite. Developing an effective emergency plan includes:
Emergency response team
Emergency evacuation procedures
Collaboration with emergency services
Additionally, personnel should be trained in basic first aid techniques like CPR, wound care, and other common workplace injuries. There should be first aid kits supplied in accessible areas of the worksite, and routine checks should be conducted to make sure the first kits are always fully stocked up. In some very high-scale heavy equipment operations, sometimes it’s even worth having onsite-medical personnel on standby in case anything occurs.
There should be clearly-written protocols for contacting emergency services if severe injuries that require immediate medical attention occur. Post-incident support should also be available for employees who’ve experienced an accident on the job.
Prioritizing heavy equipment safety is essential for anyone associated with the industry. Understanding risks, following safety tips, and maintaining a safe work environment will only make work safer for everyone involved. Hardline Equipment provides reliable solutions and excellent customer service for all your heavy equipment needs. Contact us in Commerce City, Colorado, or White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and trust us for any job, any size. Be safe, efficient, and successful with Hardline Equipment.