Keep it functional
Although there are a plethora of safety features, the components put in place can't do their job if they aren't working properly. "Operators should never operate their machine if any of the safety components or systems are not properly functioning," says Frank Martinelli, Volvo Construction Equipment.
Perform a walkaround of the roller before each shift, and check that safety features are in place and operating correctly. Also ensure proper operating pressures, etc., and monitor all gauges to ascertain proper functions.
Familiarize yourself with maintenance tasks that should be performed to keep the machine in safe operating condition and safety features intact. "Safe operation is directly related to following manufacturer guidelines for service and maintenance to keep the machine safely functional," Dennison stresses.
Read up for safety
Safe compactor operation actually starts with reading the operator manuals, which will alert you to the various safety aspects of the machine. For example, the steering hitch area is a danger zone that can put an operator's life at risk, especially when his or her attention is focused elsewhere, Brown notes
"Operators should never operate a compactor unless they have been trained by a qualified instructor and... have read and thoroughly understood the operator's manual," says Martinelli. "If there is something they don't understand, they should ask their supervisor for help."
"One of the biggest mistakes operators make is they don't take the time to read the manuals that come free with the equipment," says Brown. "A better understanding of the basic forward-reverse controls, braking systems and other machine features and functions will help them avoid mistakes that can injure."
Reading the manual can also alert you to safe operating practices. Compacting on slopes is an area of particular concern.
Every machine typically has a gradeability specification, but not every manufacturer reports it. "Be sure to check," advises Dennison. "The gradeability limitation gives you a boundary or guideline for safe operation."
Even with this guideline, Brown cautions, "Slopes should always be compacted from top to bottom, rather than from side to side, regardless of the degree of the slope. Even with ROPS and seatbelts, rollovers of machines up to 30,000 lbs. are to be avoided."
Embankment work with a lot of uncompacted fill material is also very dangerous. "Operators should always roll longitudinally from the center of the embankment outward, making sure to overlap each pass by at least one-half of the drum width to keep the machine on compacted ground," Brown says. "When rolling along the edge of an uncompacted embankment or drop-off, always roll with the drum leading. Rolling in reverse with the tire leading is inviting trouble in the soft fill."
Also be aware of loose soil or rock on grades and embankments. "If you lose traction, or if material slides out from under the machine when you're on grade, the machine could slide down the embankment," says Dennison. "Be aware of anything that would cause them to break
traction and lose control."
That includes working in excessively wet site conditions. "If a drum or wheels are slipping, you don't have traction," says Dennison. "If you don't have traction, you don't have control. All materials have an optimum moisture level where you can attain the best compaction levels. If you go beyond optimum moisture and there's water laying on the surface, you won't get your density anyway."
Hazards on asphalt
Although operating on slopes and embankments is usually reserved for soil compactors, asphalt rollers aren't without hazards. "You might think that rolling asphalt would be one of the safest jobs around," says Brown. "But consider a couple of things."
For one, the rule of thumb on most paving jobs is to keep the compactor close to the paver to achieve optimum density while the material is hot. "At the screed end of the paver are a couple of hardworking guys, who are focused forward on spreading a proper layer of material," Brown notes. "With the roller drum only feet away, the roller operator must remain absolutely focused at all times. This is when knowledge of the roller and its functions are key."