THE SAFE use of heavy equipment is critical when machinery msuch as bulldozers, graders or ground-moving equipment is mused in the construction of new homes, bridges, shopping malls or industrial stuctures.

The size and weight of these heavy machines make them extremely hazardous, and proper operation is required to avoid serious injury or death. Heavy-equipment injuries are a frequent occurrence during the construction of roads and commercial properties.

Even the most experienced of operators may find operating heavy equipment a challenge at times.

The basics

Prior to the start of a project, inspect all heavy machinery. Heavyequipment inspection is crucial in ensuring that everything is in working condition and ready for safe operation.

Physically check the equipment for issues such as torn belts, worn brakes and hoses, and leaking hydraulics.

When storing machinery, ensure that the component parts are properly secured or disabled.

Moving parts such as blades and saws have the potential to cause injury and, when storing away mobile equipment, make sure that brakes are in the locked position.

The owners’ manuals for the equipment should provide you with detailed information on how to properly secure equipment not in use.

Construction vehicles

Safety requirements vary depending upon the type of heavy machinery, and your operators should be well-schooled in them.

Anybody operating a piece of heavy equipment needs to be fully trained in operations and safety for that specific machine.

Some machinery also may require the use of a commercial driver’s license and completion of an approved training course. OSHA regulations are in place to ensure safe operation.

The types of requirements depend on the type of construction activities performed.

For additional information, including requirements, refer to Cal/OSHA Title 8 regulations.

Some Best Practices

Here are a few common safety rules for operators and groundbased workers to consider:

  • Good communication is essential – A standardized set of hand signals should be used by the operator and signal person. Operators should know exactly where all ground-based workers are located. The equipment should have a back-up warning alarm that can be heard by all nearby workers. Two-way radios are also valuable communication tools.
  • Rollover protective structures (ROPS) – Heavy equipment must have a ROPS that meets Cal/OSHA requirements. The ROPS is designed to protect the operator if the machine tips over. A seat belt must be worn so that the operator will not be thrown out of the seat during a rollover or upset situation.
    If working on slopes, try to avoid moving across the face ofthe slope. Operate up and down the slope face if possible. Use extreme caution when operating near open excavations.
  • Wear hearing protection when required – If it has been determined that noise levels around the equipment could potentially cause hearing loss, always use protective plugs or muffs when working on or close to the equipment.
  • Never jump onto or off the equipment – Operator should use the three-point contact rule when climbing onto or off heavy equipment. That means having both feet and one hand, or one foot and both hands, in contact with the ladder at all times.
  • Inspect and service the equipment regularly – Complete equipment service in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Periodic safety inspections on all components of the equipment should be done regularly by qualified personnel.

Injury accidents involving heavy equipment have a higher probability of resulting in a fatality than many other types of accidents. It is critical that your workers follow all of your company’s safety rules and procedures when operating or working around heavy equipment.


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