Safety: Establish a Safety Mindset

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IT’S IMPERATIVE TO make safety a workplace priority. In fact, a safety mindset should be established and followed as operators use and maintain heavy equipment—specifically excavators and wheel loaders—at solid waste facilities.

It is important to communicate proper safety tips to promote a safe work environment, as well as reduce the risk of accidents that can result in injuries. Follow these four tips to create a safe working environment.

Perhaps the most important aspect of workplace safety is to ensure that all employees who operate equipment have adequate training. All equipment operators need proper education and a general understanding of basic operating procedures for a machine’s controls, gauges, signals, indicators, and monitor displays before operating.

Review the manufacturer’s Operation & Maintenance Manual. It’s an important first step for anyone who operates equipment. The manual serves as a primary guide for proper equipment operation and maintenance. The manuals can be kept in the machine’s cab for quick reference.

Prior to operation and maintenance, make sure operators review safety and instructional decals. Some manufacturers strategically place decals on the interior and exterior of equipment to alert operators about potential hazards, the consequences of injury, and instructions on how to avoid the hazard. Replace decals that become worn, damaged, or missing.

To keep operators safe, make sure they understand universal safety guidelines, such as wearing protective clothing and personal safety devices.

Personal protection equipment (PPE) may include the following items:

  • Hard hat
  • Safety shoes
  • Safety glasses
  • Heavy gloves
  • Hearing protection
  • Reflective clothing

Always use a seatbelt, use the grab handles and steps that are provided for a three-point contact when entering and exiting the machine, and wear tight-fitting clothing that cannot get caught on working components or on the machine.

Safe operation may include using rearview or sideview cameras, travel alarms/backup alarms, work lights, and mirrors or a horn. Improve operator visibility with cameras and help reduce the risk of workers getting hurt. Understand multi-functional display panels before operating equipment. Display panels show critical machine data, such as speed, engine rpm, transmission gear, machine warnings, coolant temperature, and transmission oil temperature. Some manufacturers offer display panels that provide machine parameters while showing the rearview or sideview camera image.

Before working, operators should take a few minutes to walk around their machine to look for potential problems:

  • Check for broken, missing, or damaged parts; make necessary repairs
  • Check for damaged or missing safety or instructional decals; replace them, if needed
  • Check tires for cuts, tearing, or over-inflation
  • Check wheels for damaged rims and missing or loose wheel nuts or bolts
  • Review tracks for broken or damaged pins, bushings, or other track parts
  • Replace worn or damaged tires or tracks
  • Check the fluid levels, including engine hydraulic oil and coolants
  • Look for evidence of leaks, have any leaks repaired, and fill fluid to proper level
  • Remove any flammable debris from the engine compartment and battery box, around exhaust components, under the machine, and around rotating parts
  • Inspect lights, cab glass, side mirror, and rearview camera (if available) for damage
  • Clean and inspect all walking surfaces, steps, and grab handles
  • Ensure that the Rollover Protective Structure and Falling Object Protective Structure are in good condition

Minimizing risk of injury is an everyone’s job. Operators should be properly trained using manufacturer’s tools and instructions before they use any heavy equipment.

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