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Heavy Equipment Hazards on Construction Sites – 8 Safety Tips to Live By

Toby Graham /
construction heavy equipment safety

Construction job sites are busy and often hazardous places. They commonly involve the movement of heavy equipment that can lead to injuries involving being struck by accidents and being caught in or between accidents. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), these are two of the top four (or “fatal four”) causes of fatalities on construction job sites. This equipment includes excavators, bulldozers, graders, and more. Following safe practices decreases the risks of heavy equipment accidents on construction sites.

Controlling Heavy Equipment Hazards

Heavy construction equipment can be dangerous when not used properly, or when workers are not trained to understand and avoid the hazards of heavy equipment. Workers must be made aware of the dangers associated with equipment operation, and they must take steps to mitigate potential accidents. 

But there are some common hazards when it comes to heavy equipment. Here are some of the helpful safety tips that can help all those working around heavy equipment:

Before You Start the Engine…

Train Your Team

Ensuring equipment operators are properly trained will reduce the chance of accidents and injuries. Operators must be trained on the specific machine they’re using and they must know the equipment’s limitations.

Inspect & Maintain Your Equipment 

Every heavy equipment operator should inspect their machine on a regular basis. This includes a pre-start walk around where obvious issues are discovered and fixed before they become problems. Every machine should have maintenance performed on a regular, scheduled basis. Preventive maintenance is an important part of overall safety performance and should never be left until a machine fails and someone gets injured.

Wear your PPE

Immediate safety risks around heavy equipment are noise, dust, and heat. Proper hearing, breathing and thermal protection go a long way to reducing personal health and safety issues. And wearing a high visibility safety vest will ensure equipment operators can see you.

Wear your seat belt

Always wear the manufacturer-installed seat belt or harness when operating equipment. Seat belts restrain an operator in the event of a rollover or side tipping. Being thrown from a machine and run over can be avoided by simply wearing the seat belt.

While Operating Equipment…

Identifying and controlling construction job site hazards is an ongoing battle. Often, situations change on a site as work progresses, and it’s important to make workers aware of evolving conditions.

8 Safety Tips for Operating Heavy Machinery

Click each of the icons to learn tips to keep your workforce safe while operating heavy machinery.

Keep Eye contact

By making eye contact, both the operator and surrounding workers are aware of each other. This helps to prevent an operator from moving a machine or swinging material toward a worker.

Monitor communication

Many construction sites use radio communication between machine operators and workers. Knowing what others are doing and communicating changes in operation are necessary to ensure everyone’s safety. But sometimes radios don’t work. Clearly displayed and understood hand signals are fail-safe communication techniques.

Avoid the line-of-fire

The line-of-fire refers to every place around a piece of heavy equipment where a worker can be caught in-between or hit by a mobile object. Communication between the operator and ground workers is critical. Workers need to know what the machinery operator plans to do and what’s expected of workers around them.

Use spotters

Many construction equipment operators rely on spotters as their second pair of eyes. All machines have blind spots where the operator is visually impaired. Using a spotter is assurance that the operator won’t accidentally move the equipment or material into a potentially dangerous position.

Mark the danger zones

Marking a danger zone with barriers, fences, cones, barricades or caution tape effectively communicates hazards to anyone approaching construction equipment. The danger zone is anywhere that the line-of-fire starts and stops.

Know your surroundings

It’s important for everyone on site to be situationally aware of their surroundings. Two common problems are overhead and underground hazards. That includes power lines struck by a boom or a raised dump box. It can also be buried electrical or gas lines. Being aware of these situations saves lives.

Use three-points of contact

Using “three-point contact” is when a worker always has three points of contact on an entrance or exit ladder or stairs. At all times, either both feet or both hands are contacting a step, rung or handrail to ensure a good grip and stability.

Brake and blocking

Heavy equipment should always be secured when parked. Depending on the equipment type, that might mean applying the parking brake on a scraper or grader. It might mean lowering a blade or bucket on a dozer or loader, or it could mean chocking the wheels on a rubber-tired skid steer. It is important to make sure equipment never moves unless an operator intends it to.

KPA EHS Helps Construction Companies Stay Safe

KPA has the tools and resources to ensure that your worksite is a safe environment for all involved. Manage your safety program in an all-in-one system designed to engage your employees, instill a culture of safety, and enable regulatory compliance. Contact us today, and we can show you how.

 
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