Quick Connect Excavator Head and Attachments

Quick connector heads that allow different excavator attachments to be quickly interchanged are a tremendous innovation for construction. Today, one properly-sized excavator with several different attachments can do the work of several excavators. However, with this ease of changing attachments comes a responsibility to make sure these attachments are properly installed.

The main risk arising from the use of a quick-connect device is that the attachment, such as an excavating bucket, can become disconnected from the device and fall from the machine. Some of the reasons for this type of accident include:

  • Being in a hurry and failing to engage the quick-connect device properly;
  • Not activating a secondary locking device;
  • Poor maintenance; and
  • Overloading the attachment.

Train operators to do a complete motion check before swinging the attachment near other workers. The operator should always follow the manufacturer’s requirements for doing motion tests. All manufacturers specify steps to assure proper installation of attachments. Following is a generic list (but you should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations):

  • Switch to the “LOCK” position after fully seating the coupler to engage the link pin with the locking lever.
  • Test the connection by completely curling the coupler inward to make sure the attachment is completely engaged.
  • Cycle the coupler attachment from “fully closed” to “fully open” at least twice.
  • Try to disengage the bucket from the coupler using the machine weight. Dig the bucket teeth into the ground, lower the attachment against the ground to lift the tracks off the ground and try to force the bucket off.
  • Perform all tests every time you engage an attachment. All tests must be performed away from personnel. NEVER swing coupled attachments over personnel.
  • Some manufacturers have developed a retrofit kit to improve the mechanical locking safety of quick-connect heads and attachments. Check with your dealer to make sure your equipment has been retrofitted, if available.
  • Instructions for testing of quick-connect heads should be in the cab of all excavators equipped with these heads.
  • Operators should always follow the testing procedures required for the type of quick- connect head they are using.
  • Consider using an independent secondary locking system to keep the attachment from falling if the primary lock fails.

Don’t take risks with your safety or that of your co-worker.

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New Products and Machines

Toolbox Talks often cover the same topics – fall protection, hazard communications, heat stress, ladder safety and personal protection – because it’s easy to get lackadaisical about things that we deal with on a daily basis. So we repeat the basics and encourage you to stay mindful and alert.

What happens when the tools and machines change? Manufacturers constantly come up with new and improved tools and equipment. They may not be built like the ones you’re used to, and may not operate the same way either. The change may be simple, like the shape of a trigger guard. It may make the tool easier to turn on – even when you’re not prepared for it. Or maybe there’s a new procedure to attach cutter or scraper blades. Changing the blades may be dangerous if you aren’t prepared for differences between the old and new models.

Lack of training is the big safety issue. You might think you can figure out how to set up and operate the new equipment yourself. That might work sometimes, but not all of the time. Many of the changes make operation controls or maintenance requirements so different that you need more than intuitiveness and common sense to figure out how to safely operate and care for the new equipment. That’s why manufacturers spend time and money to develop and print instruction manuals and operating guidelines. Injuries to people and damage to machines occurs when you fail to read the instruction manual.

Each year, Construction Pros magazine lists the 50 best new products for the construction industry. Demand is high for products that work faster, safer and more efficiently. Some of these new items will show up on your work site, so you should learn to use and care for them while keeping yourself and your coworkers safe.

Safety issues might include:

  • New pinch points created with new attachments. New milling or sweeping attachments may leave no room for your hands or fingers on side rails or cab columns. Your old machine may have had plenty of clearance between the attachment and the machine; the new one may not. If you aren’t aware of the changes, you may end up with a pinching or crushing injury.
  • Breaking a hollow drill bit on new hollow core drills or tangling vacuum lines you use new vacuum systems can cause injury.
  • Burns and skin rashes from new chemicals used in mastics, fillers and primers. Know what the new chemicals are, and protect yourself with the proper protective equipment. You may need new gloves made of a special material that is resistant to the new chemicals.

Never assume you know how to use, care for or store a new tool, piece of equipment or chemical. Take time to read the instructions.