3. People crowding the work area
Ask any backhoe operator what their biggest headache is and they will tell you without hesitation - people on the ground crowding the machine. People love to stand at the edge of the hole and watch the dirt being moved. There is usually no reason for them to be there, just force of habit. But why create an exposure to injury when none needs to exist?
People on the ground must stay well away from the machine operating area. Review this important point at safety meetings. Foremen need to enforce this, not the operator.
When ready to start work, use the horn to warn people to stay back; stop the machine if needed; and always check your back before backing up the machine.
4. Machine swing radius
Swing radius accidents are common. How do you think all those scrape marks got on that counterweight? Unfortunately, they are also usually fatal when people are involved.
Thus, it's important to rope off the swing radius around the machine or otherwise secure it. Allow no spectators; use a spotter to keep all people clear.
5. Operation on slopes
Caution is always required when operating on slopes. You might make it up the slope with a load, but coming down is another story! Know the limits of the machine, allow for surface conditions and don't push it.
6. Overhead/buried obstructions
Be aware of overhead obstructions and underground utilities, including electrical lines, water, sewer, gas, telecom, etc.
Definitively mark or warn of overhead lines or low clearances. When digging, call Dig Safe or whichever agency has jurisdiction. Continue to use caution even after underground lines are marked, since errors in marking are common. Be prepared to hand dig when it's getting close.
Use sawhorses, signs, barrier tapes, etc., to indicate obstructions. Take no chances.
Reverse motion on anything in this industry is fraught with peril. Backup alarms on construction machinery are basically cosmetic devices in terms of assuring a clear backside. As such, operators need to positively assure that no one or nothing is behind them. This is achieved by getting out and looking.
Always check the machine perimeter before moving. When vision is impaired, have a spotter (in high-visibility apparel) guide you.
Use wide angle mirrors. The new generation of machines is fitted with best viewable surface mirrors. Keep them clean and adjusted.
Use rear-mounted cameras and/or rear-mounted presence-sensing alarms. Presence-sensing alarms are becoming more reliable as technology improves. The equipment industry recognizes the urgency of the problem and will find technical solutions to address chronic people behavior problems.
8. Machine upset
If a piece of equipment starts to tip, your seat belt becomes your lifeline. Yet, the list of excuses for failure to use seat belts or harnesses is amazingly long. Most operators would make great fiction writers with the excuses they can come up with. If it weren't so grim, we should offer to add their reasons to their obituary.
Always use a seat belt. A professional operator will not have to be reminded of this bed-rock rule. Wear the belt even with the cab door closed. It decreases how much you will bounce around in the cab during normal operations, and may help you control the machine in a borderline upset situation.
In addition, operators need to understand the machine's stability characteristics on all surface types and conditions. Check to see if the equipment manufacturer or dealer offers an instructional video.
9. Instability or loss of load
Moving dirt or bulk materials is fairly straightforward. It becomes more complex when you try to use the hoe as a crane, or otherwise become creative in finding new applications. The best pipe layers in the world might only be "fair" when it comes to rigging. All rigging attachments for lifting must be engineered for safety. Be sure to use: