Top 9 Ways to Avoid Earthmoving Equipment Accidents

This content was supplied by Principle People, a UK recruitment company. 

Accidents involving heavy earthmoving equipment are growing in frequency.

Aside from the structural damage, there have also been instances of people being injured or killed. These accidents are often caused by equipment failure, human error or both. So, consider implementing steps that can reduce or completely eliminate such events. 

In addition, ask your health and safety officer to ensure that all heavy machine operators have the necessary:

  • Training 
  • Certification
  • Skills

Here are nine tips on how you can reduce or completely eliminate accidents in the workplace.  

1. Eliminating or reducing blind spots

Heavy equipment operators need to make sure there are no people or obstructions behind them or in their blind spots. If necessary, they may need to get out of their equipment to check. Another alternative is to post spotters who can guide and direct the operator. Such spotters should stand in a safe and visible position. All workers or passersby should make eye contact with the operator before coming near the equipment or blind spots. Also, all your workers should wear high-visibility vests on the work site.

2. Constant communication

Communication devices such as two-way radios are handy on construction sites. However, if these are not available, the next best thing is to have adequately trained spotters using hand signals. Also, make sure that safety meetings address the need for constant communication. While on the site, the foreman can reinforce this message.

3. Using seatbelts

Just as in motor vehicles, seatbelts can save operators’ lives or limbs in cases of:

  • Rollovers
  • Operating in rough terrain
  • Collisions with other equipment, vehicles or obstacles

4. Proper mounting & dismounting procedures

The primary causes of injury in the workplace include:

  • Falls 
  • Stepping on and off the equipment
  • Entering and exiting the machine’s cab

Prevent accidents from occurring by following the important three-point rule:

  • Maintain at least three out of four contacts with the vehicle at all times
  • Two hands and one foot or both feet and one hand

It is also essential to immediately replace any damaged handholds or steps to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring.  

Your HSE officer should conduct a risk assessment to ensure that every precaution is being taken to prevent accidents and injuries. If your company does not employ an HSE officer, you should seriously consider getting one. These officers are professionals who have been trained specifically to secure the workplace against possible accidents or mishaps.

If you’re looking to employ an HSE officer, you should contact specialist recruiters such as Principal People Recruitment.(If you are a UK reader) If you give them some details about your construction company, they will provide you with the best-qualified person to handle the job.

5. Safely loading or unloading equipment

Ensure that your personnel only load and unload equipment on level ground. This can reduce the risk of rollover or the chances of sliding off the low-bed ramps. If the loading and unloading operations take place in a busy area, consider clearing out all the people and having spotters guide the activities.

6. Avoiding overhead & underground hazards 

Before moving in your heavy earthmoving equipment, ensure the site is free from:

  • Overhead obstructions
  • Low-clearance objects
  • Underground utilities

If you cannot remove the obstacles, identify and flag the structures including utilities such as:

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Sewers
  • Water pipes

If you need to uncover a utility hole, make sure you put up barriers and fences to protect your workers and the general public.

Dealing with a variety of obstacles in the workplace requires a standard operating procedure. This task is often the responsibility of the company’s HSE officer. 

7. Proper employee training during lock-out or tag-out

Your company should ensure that all operators have adequate training in simple repairs and maintenance. Moreover, they should also learn how to render a machine or its energy source inoperative. They need such training in case:  

  • The earthmoving equipment is in danger of unexpected start-ups
  • The machinery is at risk of suddenly releasing stored energy that can cause injuries

Also, when conducting repairs, your employees should use locks and tags such as:

  • Attachments
  • Raised loads
  • Pinch points

8.  Operating within the load limit

Operators should know the load limits of the various types of machinery they are handling. When using machines to lift objects, ensure that your employees always:

  • Properly secure the load with rigging attachments
  • Inspect the attachments and check that they are in good working condition
  • Make sure that all workers and passersby are outside the danger zone

9.  Regular inspections

A supervisor or HSE officer should inspect the pieces of machinery at least once a day before operating them. Consider drawing up a checklist when assessing whether the various mechanisms are in good working order. The vital components that need checking include:

  • Hydraulic hoses
  • Oil levels
  • Stress points
  • Undercarriage

You also need to develop a procedure whereby if a part or component is in need of repair, the maintenance or HSE officer will know about it. Also, consider using mobile devices to improve:

  • Communication
  • Response time

Conclusion

Even seasoned operators find handling heavy machinery a stressful job. So, always remind them that they shouldn’t go into situations that don’t feel comfortable. First, they should look around and check to see whether their equipment can handle a slope or other hazards. In addition, they should be both calm and alert during their working shifts. This will allow them to be productive and also ensure a positive working environment for the company.

Author bio
Simon Bliss is the Managing Director of Principal People, a recruitment consultancy specialising in Health, Safety and Environment. The company successfully provides clients with candidates who are suitable for a variety of positions, including senior and leadership roles.

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