According to Boyle, some of the most common errors operators make when lifting with excavators is they don’t check the lift chart before lifting or don’t know the weight of the load. In order to make your lifts as safe as possible, pay close attention to the load chart ratings and determine the total load weight. An operator must visualize how he will execute the lift in order to properly apply specifics of the lift to the load chart. It’s important that the bucket weight, or lack of a bucket, be figured into the allowed lift weight. And if the machine has an auxiliary hydraulics kit or coupler, the weights of those items must also be figured into the weight of the lift. The total weight being lifted should not exceed the recommended weight the machine can handle at its weakest point, usually when the boom is extended across the undercarriage.
“If an operator has been working with the pipe and the man boxes, he knows his machine, he knows the materials he’s working with and he knows exactly what the machine can take. The operators are really good with that,” Karpuleon says. But he adds that it’s a good idea for a contractor to go through a test lift if there’s any question about the weight of the item being lifted or the ability of the excavator or backhoe-loader.
Schaefer reinforces this suggestion. “Test the lift capacity before you start your job,” he says in regards to backhoe-loaders. “Put the machine close to the load. Use a cable or sling to fasten the load to the end of the dipper at the lift eye.
Lift the load with the backhoe so the load is 2 in. above the ground. Swing the load all the way to one side. Move the load away from the machine. Make sure you keep the load 2 in. above the ground. Lower the load to the ground if one of the stabilizers is raised above the ground or if there is any indication that the stability of the machine is reduced.”
Boyle offers some additional tips for lifting safely. “Make sure the sprockets are to the rear so you can utilize the heavier components of the excavator,” he suggests. “When lifting a heavy load, operators should place extra material under the front of the excavator track to compensate for the track settling into the ground when the load is raised.”
As for backhoe-loaders, Tyler offers these safety points. “When lifting with a backhoe, make sure the tractor is stable on the ground with use of the stabilizers,” he emphasizes. “Utilize harnesses heavy enough for the job. Lift items close to the tractor and close to the ground, then stretch out to where the item needs to be lifted. Lifting with the backhoe straight back behind the tractor will also improve lifting performance of the tractor.”