Heavy Equipment Safety

Originally published 07/05/2017

Only trained, highly skilled construction workers should operate heavy equipment such as excavators, loaders, graders, rollers and bulldozers. Ground-based workers should be trained in how to work safely around the equipment or stay clear. Unsafe practices by either the operator or those around the equipment can create very dangerous situations. Some of the reasons for injury to heavy equipment operators and ground-based workers on a construction site include:

  • Repairing and servicing equipment in dangerous positions,
  • Striking individuals or other vehicles with the equipment – particularly the blade,
  • Unexpected tipping of equipment,
  • Uncontrolled traffic within or through the work area,
  • Unexpected shocks or jars to the machine,
  • Sudden movement of a power unit while it is being attached to earth moving equipment,
  • Limbs of trees or overhead obstructions,
  • Leaving equipment running or in dangerous positions while unattended, and
  • Lifting mechanism failure on the equipment.

Here are a few common safety rules for operators and ground-based workers to consider:

  • Inspect and service your equipment regularly. This should be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and by qualified personnel. A pre-shift walk around inspection by the operator is highly recommended.
  • Do not wear loose clothing that can get caught in moving parts of the equipment.
  • Keep deck plates or steps on equipment free from grease, oil, ice and mud. Corded soled shoes are recommended.
  • Check the area for ground-based workers before operating the equipment.
  • Ground-based workers should wear high visibility clothing so they can be seen by the operator. They should also wear their personal protective equipment.
  • Establish a danger zone for ground workers. Be aware of the swing radius on certain equipment and, if possible, cordon off the area with barriers or caution tape.
  • Use a spotter and establish a standardized set of hand signals to be used by the operator and spotter. Two-way radios can sometimes be valuable communication tools.
  • The spotter should maintain eye contact with the operator. This will ensure that they are not in the operator’s blind spot.
  • Make sure the back-up alarm on the equipment is in working order and use it when backing.
  • Employees other than the operator should not ride on equipment.
  • Before starting the motor, the operator should make sure that all operating controls are in the neutral position.
  • Heavy equipment should have a rollover protective structure that meets OSHA requirements.
  • Operator should wear a seat belt at all times.
  • If working on slopes, try to avoid moving across the face of the slope. Operating up and down the slope is best.
  • Keep a safe distance from open excavations.
  • Wear hearing protection when required.
  • Never jump onto or off the equipment. Operators should always use the three-point contact rule when climbing on or off equipment. This means having either both feet and one hand, or having one foot and both hands in contact with the ladder access at all times.
  • If possible, drive equipment entirely off the road at night. If any portion of the machine projects into the road, it should be adequately marked with red lights or flares at night. Use red flags in the daytime.

Injury accidents involving heavy equipment have a high probability of fatality. It is critical that you know and follow your company’s safety rules and procedures when operating or working around heavy equipment.

Download a recording form here.

Tire Safety

In construction, we work with, and around, rubber-wheeled equipment all the time. Properly maintained tires improve vehicle handling, fuel economy, the load-carrying capability of your vehicle or equipment and increase the life of your tires.

The most important things you can do to avoid tire failure, such as tread separation, blowouts and flat tires, is to maintain proper tire pressure, observe tire and vehicle load limits, avoid road hazards and inspect your tires.

Use the checklist below to ensure your tires provide their best ride:

  • Inspect tires daily for uneven wear patterns, cracks, cuts, slashes, foreign objects or other signs of wear or trauma. Remove bits of glass and other foreign objects wedged in the tread.
  • Use a tire pressure gauge to check the tire pressure at least once a month. Do this when the tire is cold (meaning the tire has been still for at least three hours). You can find the manufacturer-recommended tire pressure information on the vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door or in the vehicle owner’s manual. Improper tire pressure can lead to uneven wear, making the tire less effective when stopping or turning, which may cause collisions, sliding and/or stability problems.
  • Check the tire tread depth at the same time you check the tire pressure. In general, tires are not safe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to one-eighth of an inch.
  • Make sure the tires are properly balanced. This adjustment maximizes the life of your tires and prevents your vehicle from veering to the right or left when driving on a straight, level road.
  • Do not overload your vehicle. Check the tire information placard or owner’s manual for the maximum recommended load for your vehicle.
  • If you are towing a trailer, remember that some of the weight of the loaded trailer is transferred to the towing vehicle.
  • Slow down if you have to go over a pothole or other object in the road.
  • Do not run over curbs, and try not to strike the curb when parking.

Remember to do your part: be tire smart.

Download the recording form here.

Driving on Snow and Ice

Originally published 01/20/2016

The best advice for driving on snow and ice is to avoid it if you can. If you can’t, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is prepared, and that you know how to handle the road conditions. The following tips will help make your drive safer on snow and ice.

Driving safely on icy roads:

  • Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding.
  • Turn on your lights so that other drivers can see you.
  • Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  • Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  • Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads. These areas will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas.
  • Don’t pass snow plows and sand trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind them.
  • Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your vehicle starts to skid:

  • Remain calm.
  • Take your foot off the accelerator.
  • If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes, do not pump them, but apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse; this is normal.
  • Steer to safety.

If you get stuck:

  • Use a light touch on the gas to ease your car out.
  • Don’t spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  • You may want to try rocking the vehicle. Give a light touch on the gas pedal and then release it. Repeating this action will start a rocking motion and could free your vehicle.
  • If necessary, use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the vehicle.
  • Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels to increase traction.

Keep in mind that winter brings adverse weather conditions. Be prepared to operate your vehicle in a defensive manner, and watch out for other vehicles on the road. Driving on snow and ice can be tricky, but can be done safely. Remember: Think safety and act safely.

Download the recording form here.

Fall Driving Hazards

Originally published 10/25/2016

Most construction companies have a safety goal of “everybody goes home safe” and “come to work safe.” This motto encompasses driving to and from work as well as any driving performed while on the job.

Many people think that the most dangerous season for driving is the winter. However, a 2009 study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Safety Institute in Ann Arbor revealed that the most dangerous season for driving is actually fall. The study discovered that the danger of dying in a car crash is 16 percent greater in October than in March. With the most dangerous driving season up on us, here are some key factors to consider.

  • Leaves – as leaves begin to fall, there are several things to think about.
    • Wet leaves are slippery and can reduce traction.
    • They can cover the yellow and white pavement markings on the road making it difficult to determine shoulder and lane widths.
    • They can get clogged under wiper blades, impeding wiper performance and visibility.
    • Parking too close to a leaf pile can be a fire hazard with catalytic converters.
  • Deer – deer collisions are most common in fall due to mating season, hunting season and the reduced hours of daylight.
    • Pay attention to deer crossing signs. They were put there for a reason. These areas have had high rates of car/deer collisions.
    • If a collision is unavoidable, hit the deer. This is safer than skidding off the road into trees and ditches.
    • Be aware that deer sometimes retrace their steps. They will cross the road, then cross back over in the same spot.
    • If you see one deer, be prepared for others. They usually travel in groups.
  • Farm Machinery – farmers harvesting will be on the roads.
    • Watch for slow-moving vehicles. A slow-moving vehicle sign is a reflective orange triangle with a red border. It warns other drivers that the vehicle displaying the sign is traveling at 25 mph or less.
    • Make sure the drivers of farm vehicles can see you.

Other fall driving hazards include:

  • Frozen bridges – Bridges freeze before the rest of the road because they are exposed to weather on both the top and the bottom. Use caution when transitioning from the pavement to a bridge surface.
  • Black Ice – Use extreme caution when driving on cold mornings where there is evidence of frozen moisture on the roadway.
  • Rain – Early fall storms are worse from a driver’s perspective because highways have a summers worth of oil and rubber buildup on the road and can become extremely slick when suddenly soaked.
  • Hydroplaning – If you feel like you are hydroplaning, steer straight and gently back off the throttle until you feel the tires make contact with the road.
  • Fog – This is statistically the single-most dangerous condition a driver can encounter. In dense fog, turn on your low beam headlamps, slow down to a crawl if necessary, and use extreme caution.

Winter months are synonymous with cautious driving. However, being cautious in every season could save a life.

Download the recording form here.

Safe Fueling Procedures

Originally published 09/06/2016

The hazards involved with fueling equipment on a construction site include gas and fuel fires, spills, vapors and slips, trips and falls. Here are some precautions you should take to prevent a fueling accident:

Fueling Station

  • Keep a spill kit available, and train workers to use it.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher at the fueling station.
  • Set up fueling stations in well-ventilated areas.
  • Maintain all pumps, hoses and nozzles in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications.

Fueling Your Vehicle

  • Always concentrate on the task at hand.
  • Do not use electronic devices, such as cell phones while fueling, because a spark could ignite a fire.
  • Turn off the vehicle’s engine.
  • Before dispensing fuel into your vehicle, touch a metal part of your vehicle that is not close to the fuel tank. This helps dissipate any static buildup your body created when you slid out of your vehicle.
  • Never smoke while fueling. Also, make certain there are no other potential sources of ignition, such as open flames or spark-producing equipment operating in the area.
  • Do not overfill the fuel tank.
  • Allow for fuel expansion on hot days.
  • If you are refueling portable equipment such as lawn mowers, generators, chain saws, or anything else with a fuel-powered engine, let the engine cool down before you add fuel to the tank. Spilling fuel on a hot motor instantly creates a cloud of highly flammable vapor, which can easily catch fire or explode.
  • Use only safety cans or other approved portable fuel containers to transport or transfer fuel. Unapproved containers can leak, spill fuel or rupture.
  • Never dispense fuel into a can or other portable container while it is sitting in your vehicle or truck bed.
  • If you have a fuel spill:
    • Clean it up immediately using the appropriate spill kit.
    • Remove any clothing that has absorbed gasoline and thoroughly wash the fuel from your body.

Fuels can be highly flammable and, if handled improperly, these substances can make fueling equipment a dangerous task. Be aware of the hazards and follow the prevention steps to avoid an incident on your site.

Download the recording form here.

INDOT Media Advisory: State Pilots Technology-Driven Approach to Overweight Vehicle Enforcement

Credit: Indiana Department of Transportation

CHESTERTON, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation, Indiana Department of Revenue, Indiana State Police, Purdue University, and Kapsch TrafficCom will launch Indiana’s Direct Weigh In Motion and Credential Enforcement Pilot Program on Friday, June 10, 2016 at 10 a.m. CDT along Interstate 94 in Northwest Indiana.

The program uses cutting edge enforcement technology that holds the potential to extend highway pavement life, capture fees now being evaded, increase truck compliance, and enhance safety.

What: Launch of Indiana’s Overweight Vehicle & Credential Enforcement Pilot Program

Who: Brandye Hendrickson, Commissioner of Indiana Department of Transportation
James Poe, Deputy Commissioner of Indiana Department of Revenue
Kim Judge, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Administrator at Indiana State Police
Gary Langston, President of Indiana Motor Truck Association
Steve Sprouffske,  ‎Manager of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement at Kapsch TrafficCom

When: Friday, June 10, 2016 at 10 a.m. CDT
10 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. – Remarks from speakers
10:20 a.m. to 10:25 a.m. – System explanation
10:25 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. – Interactive demonstrations

Where: Chesterton Weigh Station, eastbound I-94 at milepost 28 in Porter County, Ind.