Safety Tips for Working Around Heavy Equipment
While necessary for many construction-related tasks, heavy machinery can be extremely dangerous to work with and around, especially when proper safety protocols are not in place. Every worker on a job site should undergo safety training to help prevent heavy equipment mishaps, even if they aren’t operating the equipment. Machines like forklifts, industrial mixers and excavators have several moving parts and should be operated with care. Regardless of the industry, heavy equipment safety should be a priority to ensure all workers are safe.
When using heavy machinery on any job, be sure to implement the following safety tips to prevent avoidable incidents from occurring.
1. Use Safety Gear
Any time you’re operating or working around heavy machinery, you should use safety gear. Proper safety gear can protect you from various workplace dangers, and safety gear is a requirement on many construction sites and work environments. There is no such thing as too much safety gear — the more protection you wear, the safer you’ll be. To start, you should wear a hard hat, safety glasses or goggles, gloves, ear plugs, hard-toed shoes and high visibility gear like a vest. Depending on the site or specific operation, you may need to wear more protection.
Most heavy machinery is equipped with a seatbelt, which should be worn when operating the machine. Just as a seatbelt protects you in a car, your machine’s seatbelt will keep you secure if your equipment rolls, tips over or crashes. Without a seatbelt, you’re at risk of being flung from the cab in an accident, which could result in worse injuries.
2. Ensure Machinery Is Safely Operational
To keep the machine in good condition and all workers safe, it’s important to ensure the machinery is safely operable. If parts of the machine need to be repaired or replaced, it’s likely not in a condition for safe use. Ensure your machinery is operational by inspecting it before use and conducting routine maintenance.
Inspecting Before Use
At the start of every shift, visually inspect all machinery. According to OSHA regulation 1926.1412(d)(1), the equipment must be checked for visually apparent deficiencies. For example, check hoses, tires, tracks and other components for damage. Check fluid levels like engine oil and hydraulic fluid. Also, ensure any attachments are secure. If you detect any issues during the visual inspection, report them to a supervisor and the machine should be taken out of commission until repairs are made.
Perform Routine Maintenance
The best way to keep heavy machinery in safe operational order is to perform routine maintenance. Equipment should be disassembled and inspected at least once a year. Stay on top of oil changes, keep the equipment clean and report any issues as soon as they happen to prevent major issues. Manufacturer-suggested maintenance routines are typically outlined in your machine’s owner’s manual and should be followed to care for your equipment effectively.
3. Personal Safety Tips
Part of being a heavy equipment operator is knowing how to keep yourself safe when working with the machinery. There are several ways machine operators can keep themselves and others safe while moving machines. You and your employees need to be aware of personal moving machinery safety tips to help prevent incidents.
- Avoid distractions: Getting distracted when operating heavy machinery significantly increases the risk of serious injury. Avoid interacting with others while operating equipment. If necessary, shut the machine off and step away from it to have a conversation. Be sure to stay vigilant and focused on things happening around the machine.
- Avoid loose clothing, hair or jewelry: Baggy clothes, long hair and dangling jewelry are major hazards when operating moving equipment. Avoid baggy pants and shirts with loose sleeves. This tip should always be one of the first safety tips taught to new operators, as loose articles can easily get caught in moving parts and result in serious injuries. Wear fitted clothes or tuck your shirt in, tie long hair back or keep it short and remove any jewelry before operation.
- Only operate machines with the proper training: A moving machine is only as safe as the person operating it. The operator needs to know how to successfully operate the equipment for it to be used safely. All operators should receive proper training for the machines they’ll be operating. In some cases, workers must have hands-on training and licensure before operating a machine. Operators should only use machines that they are properly trained to use. Operating a machine without training can result in injury or death.
4. Outside Safety Tips
Heavy equipment is often used in work zones or sites where other people and vehicles are also moving around and working. As mentioned before, the operator should avoid distractions, though what’s happening outside of the machine is often out of the operator’s control. To create the safest operating environment for moving equipment, be sure to avoid machine interference and keep the surrounding area clear.
Just as operators should avoid interacting with others outside the machine, other workers outside the machine should avoid interfering with the machine and the operator. This helps eliminate potential distractions for the operator and gives them less to worry about. Workers should maintain a safe distance from moving equipment to avoid getting hit with moving machine parts.
Additionally, any other vehicles or equipment running in the same area should be directed away from heavy machinery in use to avoid accidents and congested work areas.
Keep the Area Clear
Similarly, keep the area or site surrounding the moving equipment clear of unnecessary workers, equipment and vehicles. When operating moving equipment in a certain area, creating a barrier to stop other workers and vehicles from entering the area can help prevent interferences. Additionally, spotters should help machine operators maneuver equipment and be the operator’s eyes in blindspots. If machines are running at night, ensure there is adequate lighting to avoid issues with visibility.
Implementing a site plan can help organize where machines should be, indicate pathways for vehicles to move and give workers a general idea of areas they should avoid for safety.
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