Heavy Equipment Safety Tips: 8 Things to Always Remember

Every day of the week, construction workers and heavy equipment operators are exposed to a variety of occupational hazards that far too often result in injury, dismemberment, and sometimes even death.

Most serious accidents involving heavy equipment are the result of rollovers, backovers, collisions and fires. Here are eight safety tips that should be common knowledge to anyone who labours on a major work site.

  1. Conduct a daily walk-around inspection of the machinery

At the beginning of each workday, before using any heavy equipment, conduct a cursory inspection of the machinery in question.

Walk around the equipment with a predeveloped checklist of all the components that you need to verify: look for cracked or split hoses, leaky fluids, and inspect the key stress points or any potential undercarriage irregularities. Also verify the tire pressure and oil levels.

Once you’ve completed your inspection, report any concerns you may have to the maintenance department at your work site.

  1. Wear seat belts

Some of the most common, and sadly, predictable fatal accidents that take place on construction sites are rollovers. Wearing a seat belt will keep you from being thrown from your vehicle and quite possibly save your life.

This piece of advice applies even when operating smaller, low-speed vehicles -- seat belts are just as important when driving a forklift on a construction site as they are while cruising down the highway in your car.

  1. Never climb on or off equipment while it's moving

This may sound obvious, but far too many operators have lost their lives due to reckless mounting or dismounting of heavy equipment.

The correct procedure is to follow the three-point rule: use two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand to mount or dismount safely.

  1. Avoid blind spots

Heavy equipment operators need to be 100 percent certain there is no one behind them or lurking in one of their blind spots when they’re backing up -- even if this involves getting off their machine and taking a look to make sure all is clear.

As with automobiles, side and rear-view mirrors don’t always provide a perfect 360-degree breadth of vision and as such cannot be deemed fully reliable. The short amount of time it takes to jump off the machine to verify that all is clear could potentially save one of your co-worker’s lives.

  1. Load and unload on level ground

Loading and unloading equipment or material on flat, steady terrain greatly reduces the risk of rollovers or the vehicle sliding off the low-bed ramps.

When possible, enlist a spotter to make sure people don’t stand too close to your loading/unloading area, especially if you’re on a busy job site or other high traffic areas.

  1. Know and respect load limits

Be aware of the load limits for each piece of equipment you use when operating different machines throughout the day. Depending on the size and set-up, load limits can vary significantly.

Confirm your load has been secured with the correct attachments and conduct a regular visual inspection of the rigging for signs of fraying or breakage. Finally, make sure your co-workers are all safely out of the way before moving any load.

  1. Maintain clear communications with co-workers

It’s crucial for heavy equipment operators to keep in constant communication with one another, the ground crew, and their supervisors. Essentially, they need to maintain communications with everybody who is working around them.

Most work sites will supply two-way radios for this purpose, but if they don’t, establishing a set of clear hand signals with a properly trained spotter can suffice.

  1. Recognize your limits

If you’re ever unsure about your ability to perform any particular task safely, then don’t attempt it until you are.

Never agree to take on anything you aren’t fully confident you can safely manage physically, mentally, and emotionally -- not just for your own well-being, but for the safety of your co-workers as well. Instead, express your concerns to your supervisor or review the situation with competent, knowledgeable co-workers.

You should ideally come into work feeling good about your job and confident about the work you perform. The emotional health of workers is more of a safety concern than many people realize. That people make poor judgement calls when tired, unhappy or stressed out has been well-documented.

The bottom line

Accidents happen, of course, and will continue to occur regardless of how many safety precautions are taken.

However, given how simple they typically are to implement and the gravity of the repercussions when accidents involving heavy equipment do take place, the importance of mandatory safety measures should be obvious to any experienced foreman or site manager.

Hitachi Capital Canada’s experts can help you obtain the safe, reliable equipment your construction business needs. Contact us to find out more about our equipment leasing and financing services.