Sometimes the ground conditions are too soft, causing stabilizers to sink in. “In this case, you should use blocks or cribbing so you can get a good footing for the stabilizers,” says Blower.
Prepare for excavations
Digging a trench or excavation takes proper preparation. Whenever you go to a new jobsite, walk it with someone who is familiar with it, advises VISTA Training. Ground depressions can be clues to things like old, buried storage tanks or a drain tile that has been caved in. You need to know everything you possibly can about what is down there before you stick that bucket in the ground for the first time.
Always call before you dig to have the local buried utility locator service mark buried utilities. There can be everything down there from telephone and electrical transmission cables, to natural gas and liquid petroleum gas lines.
Remember, the operator is responsible for the safety of everyone in the trench or any other excavation. Make sure you place spoils in the most appropriate location depending on the jobsite and soil conditions. Per OSHA requirements, the minimum distance of the spoil pile from the trench is 2 ft. But with many types of soil, it is much farther than that.
Safely Lift heavy loads
Backhoe lifting operations require extra care. “It is not just the lifting strength of the backhoe, it is the stability of the machine,” says Blower. “We pride ourselves on having a stable machine. We have a very wide stabilizer stance to get that stability even higher.”
“A best practice for heavy lifting is to have the machine as stable as possible,” says Worley. “The machine should be level with the front and the rear tires raised clear of the ground by around 6 in. Keep the stabilizers spread as far apart as possible without letting any tires touch the ground. Beware of the ground conditions under your stabilizers.” Flip stabilizers to get maximum flotation in soft underfoot conditions.
The operator needs to know how much the load weighs and how much can be safely picked up at a given angle. “Before you lift, check the spec sheet so you know what the machine is capable of lifting — the distances and heights, etc.,” says Blower. “All of those specs are done with the boom straight off the back of the machine, and typically you are lifting over the side to pick something up. Perform a test lift to make sure the machine is stable before you start moving the [object] around.”
“Keep the weight as close to you as possible by keeping the boom close in,” adds Worley. “Use the stick function for maximum capability, and use your extendible stick if needed to move the weight outward. And be sure any laborers are well clear of the object being lifted.”
Don’t use homemade rigging. “Lift using proper lifting equipment and use the integrated lifting eye on the power link of the backhoe,” Worley stresses.
“Use the shortest chain possible so you are not lifting the dipper all the way up to get the load off the ground,” Blower recommends. “Have the chain strapped as short as you can.”
Worley also advises, “Lift at low idle for maximum control and for being able to communicate to your ground workers.”
Lowering the engine rpm reduces the flow going through the hydraulics. “The backhoe will move slower,” Blower explains. “You still have all of the power there because power is pressure. You just slow the engine down and move nice and steady, so the load is not swinging around on the end of the chain.”
You will often see operators move a bucket full of material around with the bucket too high in the air.
“When you lift the bucket way up in the air, you lose your visibility and you raise the center of gravity so you have a more unstable machine,” says Blower. “The most cautious thing to do is to keep the bucket as low as possible — a foot off the ground, depending upon the terrain.”
Also be cautious going up and down hills. “Avoid going across the hill with a loaded bucket,” says Blower. “Make sure the bucket is pointing up the hill to keep the machine balanced. If you have to come down the hill, reverse down it... The last thing you want to do is come down the hill with a fully loaded bucket, hit the brakes and all of the weight goes toward the loader.”