The Substantial Importance of Heavy Equipment Safety
Heavy equipment is both powerful and dangerous, both for the operator and for those who work around it. Heavy equipment is dangerous due to its size, weight, and complex operating procedures. Safely working in the proximity of any heavy equipment requires that shared responsibly of both the equipment operator and their coworkers. Unsafe practices by either the operator or those around the equipment can create very dangerous situations. Serious and often fatal injuries can occur if the equipment strikes a worker, or if the equipment is rolled over.
Things to be aware of:
- Inspection of the equipment prior to operation to ensure that all warning systems to include lights and audible alarms are working properly
- Establish communication (hand signals, radios, air horn, audible alarm, etc.) before starting work and share them with the entire site
- Maintain a clear line of sight between the operator, spotters and workers. Blind spots are common and can be reduced with mirrors and cameras
- Remember if you can’t see the operator, they can’t see you
- Use a spotter when heavy equipment is in motion
- This requires communication between the operator and workers to maintain safe movement
- If one loses contact (visibility or comm) with the spotter or someone in close proximity to the operational zone of the equipment, the operator shall cease all activity until able to reestablish contact
- Be aware of the swing radius on certain equipment and, if possible, cordon off the area with barriers or caution tape
- NO RIDERS! Only equipment that is designed to carry multiple persons shall have more than one occupant.
- Wear high visibility clothing for outer garments and Personal Protective Equipment
- Never work under a suspended or overhead load without proper training and approval (i.e. connectors, etc.)
Heavy Equipment Danger Zones
Danger zones include but not limited to the following:
Unless it is essential to the task, all personnel should stay away from all sides of heavy equipment while it is in use.
- Blind spots and/or areas of limited visibility
- Rotating machinery
- Swing radius
- Travel path
- Under suspended or overhead loads
- Overhead hazards
- Working over or around existing underground facilities
- Proximity of moving equipment
Heavy equipment must have a rollover protective structure (ROPS)—ROPS is designed to protect the operator if the machine tips over.
The following are safety procedures in case of a rollover:
- NEVER jump out of vehicle
- Always wear a seat belt
- Keep all limbs inside ROPS and brace yourself for impact
- Lean away from direction of roll/tip
- Tuck chin against chest to reduce whiplash and other neck injuries
- Once the equipment settles turn off the ignition to help minimize spills and reduce the chance of fires