Heavy Equipment Safety Precautions Prevent Accidents
While heavy equipment delivers extreme power and productivity to a job site, it also necessitates significant responsibility for its safe operation.
About 2.6 million work-related accidents or illnesses – more than 5,000 of which were fatal – occurred in the private sector in 2021. While that represents a slight drop from previous years, the statistics still translate to 2.7 accidents per 100 full-time equivalent employees in the United States.
The construction industry had the most workplace fatalities, while the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries had the highest fatality rates. Transportation and warehousing had the highest injury/illness rate that involved days away from work.
All these industries have one thing in common – the use of heavy machinery to perform key aspects of the job. Here are some ways to put heavy equipment safety at the forefront of your operations.
Know the Basics
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) oversees workplace safety in the United States. Federal law and OSHA regulations set minimum standards and guidelines for occupational safety.
Employers are responsible for providing a safe place to work, including the following responsibilities:
- Comply with OSHA safety standards, rules, and regulations pertinent to their specific industry and workplace.
- Ensure employees use tools and equipment safely.
- Properly maintain tools and equipment.
- Create operating procedures for equipment safety and educate employees about them.
- Create a written hazard communication program and train employees when there are hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
- Warn employees of potential dangers through posters, signs, and labels.
- Provide safety training to employees in a language they can understand.
- Track and report workplace accidents.
In addition to these guidelines, OSHA has specific regulations related to the operation of heavy equipment. Employees must be properly trained to operate any heavy equipment. All equipment must be stored safely on the job site, including locking brakes, turning down safety latches, and covering all blades. Employers must also conduct regular inspections of all heavy equipment.
Regular inspections and proper maintenance are key to maintaining safety and productivity when it comes to heavy equipment. Operators often use machines in extreme weather conditions and for long periods, creating potential wear and tear.
Operators should inspect equipment and the surrounding environment daily. The inspection should include the following:
- Remove any hazards near the equipment, including those that could obstruct the operator’s view.
- Check for broken or missing covers, guards, bolts, or other parts.
- Ensure the tracks or tires are in good condition without any tears.
- Check the battery for any missing insulation or leaks.
- Ensure lights, gauges, backup alarms, and the horn work.
- Look for cracked hoses or tubes and correct fluid and oil levels.
- Adjust mirrors and ensure an unobstructed view.
- Check to ensure seatbelts and rollover protection systems are working properly.
Employers can help keep employees safe and remind them of potential hazards by creating safety checklists for the proper operation of equipment.
The most common cause of construction site fatalities involve falls, equipment or vehicle strikes, crushings, or electrocutions. Workers can mitigate many of these hazards with simple safety procedures, adequate warnings, and proper personal protective equipment.
Proper personal protective equipment includes the following:
- A hard hat for protection against falling objects
- Goggles or other eye protection
- Gloves that are meant for the specific hazards of the given job
- Appropriate protective footwear, often steel-toed work boots
- Ear protection to prevent hearing loss caused by sustained loud noises
- Safety vest for high visibility
- Job-specific items such as safety harnesses or respiratory protection
In addition to daily inspections and protections, regular preventative maintenance improves safety on the job site. Condition Monitoring for your heavy equipment provides proactive information to prevent potentially dangerous equipment failure.
Boyd CAT’s Condition Monitoring services track equipment maintenance, inspections, and repairs. Plus, Site Conditions assessments can help evaluate specific factors that can affect equipment operation and safety.
Creating a Safety Culture
A culture of safety is critical in preventing workplace accidents and fatalities. This culture needs to start at the top, with managers emphasizing safety and discouraging employees from cutting any corners when it comes to job site safety.
Organizations often evolve through several phases in building a culture of safety. These phases include:
- Reactive: The organization reacts to address hazards after accidents or incidents occur. The focus is on basic compliance with regulatory policies and procedures.
- Observed: Employees are somewhat engaged in a safety strategy but may fear retribution for reporting violations and hazards. Training is primarily related to compliance.
- Collaborative: Management takes ownership of safety and measures accountability at a basic level. Safety communication typically focuses on incident prevention.
- Accountable: Employees create and embrace safety processes, and the organization comprehensively monitors safety metrics.
- Relentless: Safety is fully integrated with business operations with regular employee communication and safety recognition. Employees consistently prevent against and report potential hazards and accidents.
All supervisors and managers should complete both safety and management training so that they can learn effective methods for communicating safety requirements and motivating employees to follow them. A worker’s job duties should only include tasks that they are qualified to perform.
Open and honest communication can prevent injuries and create a culture where employees proactively identify potential hazards. Workers should be encouraged to ask questions and bring forward any safety concerns to their supervisors.
Employees should never face reprimand for expressing safety concerns. Some employers have found that anonymous reporting systems encourage employees to be more forthright with concerns. At a minimum, employers should identify those responsible for implementing safety programs and communicate all safety plans to employees.
Employers also should take disciplinary action when employees operate any heavy machinery unsafely or under unnecessarily hazardous conditions. Operators should be held responsible for the appropriate operation of the equipment, compliance with all regulations and signs, and the use of proper personal protective equipment.
Proper safety training goes hand in hand with a culture of safety. Caterpillar provides several options for training heavy equipment operators in the use of its products and safety best practices. Training courses can give operators the skills they need to maximize production while improving safety on the job site.
Workers should also consider obtaining OSHA safety certificates, which the agency provides in partnership with universities and colleges. These OSHA outreach course programs in occupational safety and health result in certifications aimed at construction, maritime, or general industries.
In addition to general operating training, employers should provide safety training related to their specific job sites. Employers should orient all new employees to any potential hazards on the job site, rules, regulations, company procedures, and methods for expressing any safety concerns. All employees should also participate in periodic ongoing safety training, such as monthly short safety discussions with experts.
Companies with a true safety culture track and analyze accidents and other safety data to identify trends and support their decision-making. They use this information to adjust safety procedures, maintenance schedules, and training.
At Boyd CAT, our number one priority is the safety of our customers, employees, and community. We offer high-quality products and services designed to keep your business safe and productive.
To learn more about the equipment and services available at Boyd CAT, please contact us.