Welcome to “On the Job Safety with EE“! We are happy to share these key tips on heavy equipment safety from our Director of Environmental Health & Safety, Steven Verdi.
There are numerous risks when working on and around heavy equipment on construction sites. This can create a hazardous situation when fulfilling work duties such as building demolition, utility restoration, moving large loads and more. A heavy equipment operator drives or controls construction equipment, including bulldozers, forklifts, backhoes, dump trucks, cargo trucks, and hydraulic truck cranes. They operate this equipment to assist in the construction of structures, including bridges, roads, and buildings.
Every year heavy equipment operators, ground workers, and pedestrians are injured or killed by the heavy mobile equipment used in construction. Many of these incidents are the result of rollovers or individuals being struck or crushed by equipment. In fact, “struck-by” deaths are one of the construction industry’s “Fatal Four” leading causes of death on the job site with 75% involving heavy equipment.
Several conditions can contribute to struck-by injuries and fatalities, including:
- Falling materials and loads.
- Equipment operator blind spots.
- An operator dismounting and leaving equipment in gear, or not setting the brakes or wheel chocks.
- Equipment tip-over or rollover.
- Equipment or controls not locked out during maintenance.
Operator Safe Work Practices
In addition to being trained and familiar with the equipment being operated, operators can help reduce the risk of injury or fatality associated with heavy equipment through safe practices.
- Be familiar with the equipment and the operator’s manual.
- Inspect the equipment at the start of each shift, including the brake system, headlights, taillights, brake lights, windshield wipers and audible warning devices, such as the horn and the back-up alarm.
- Adjust all side and back mirrors to help compensate for blind spots.
- Ensure workers are clear of equipment before operating.
- Acknowledge and allow safe passage to workers who alert you they are approaching.
- Avoid operating equipment parallel to slopes or embankments.
- Turn off the engine and engage brakes before leaving equipment.
- Face the equipment, maintaining three points of contact, while getting on and off the equipment.
- Always wear the seat belt.
- Avoid overloading vehicles.
- Top loading vehicles must have cab shields and canopy protection.
Additional risks can include contact with overhead energized utility lines by mobile cranes and poor ground conditions.
Ground Worker Awareness and Safe Work Practices
Ground workers also play a vital role in helping minimize the risk of heavy equipment-related injury.
- Wear high-visibility clothing when working around heavy mobile equipment.
- Avoid positioning themselves in a blind spot or riding on moving equipment.
- Avoid setting up their work area near heavy mobile equipment. The operator may not see them if they are bending over to work or grab a tool.
- Avoid walking or working under a suspended load.
- Make eye contact with and alert the operator and ensure the operator sees you before approaching a vehicle.
- Ride only in approved seats and wear a seat belt.
Construction workers are around heavy equipment every day and they can become accustomed to the presence of heavy equipment, not giving much thought to the risks. Taking time to understand and follow safety rules and remaining alert while on the job can help construction workers stay safe.
Explore previous editions of On the Job Safety with EE.