Case Construction Equipment maximizes operator visibility with thinner wire side screens. “The skid-steer side screens are not structural, so they are not part of the integrity of the ROPS,” notes Tim O’Brien, brand marketing manager for Case skid steers and compact track loaders. “The screens are very thin to provide much clearer visibility out the sides of the machine.” This in turn enhances safety during operation.
Lift arm supports are provided by each manufacturer for situations when an operators must work or move around the machine with the lift arms in a raised position. Some models are equipped with pin-type supports or strut-type supports that can be engaged while sitting in the operator’s cab.
Keep It Stable
Utilizing the built-in machine safeguards is one aspect of safe skid-steer operation. Many other safety measures fall onto operators.
Due to their compact size, skid steers are frequently utilized in congested areas on construction sites. “Know what’s around you when operating a skid steer,” says Zupancic. “Crowded construction sites are full of objects and people. Operating a skid steer while raising and lowering a bucket, moving and turning, the operator needs to understand and be aware of the surroundings.”
Stability must also be maintained throughout operation. As with any self-propelled machine, a skid steer is most stable when its center of gravity is kept within its base of stability. To avoid tipping while traveling on steep terrain, hauling unbalanced loads or making abrupt turns, it’s important to understand the grade, ground and site conditions, as well as the abilities of the machine.
“Operators should follow the SAE standard for measuring the rated operating capacity of their skid steer,” Zupancic emphasizes. Traditionally, a skid steer’s rated operating capacity is 50% of its tipping load. Operators should also closely consider the rated operating capacity of the skid steer plus the attachment.
“There is no mechanism to prohibit a skid steer’s tires from coming off the ground,” Zupancic points out. “It’s up to the operator to understand the rated operating capacity. Also, as operators move up and down slopes, they should always keep the heavy end of the loader pointed uphill. With no load in the bucket, the heavy end is the rear. With a loaded bucket, the front is the heavy end.”
“To reduce potential risks when operating uphill, downhill or across a slope, operators should always keep the bucket as low as possible when traveling on any surface,” adds Wright. “If steep angles must be traversed, operators should travel up and down the slope directly; never across it at an angle. Also, speed and weight will have an effect on the machine’s stability when crossing these types of terrain. Always travel at the slowest possible speed, and limit the load size when negotiating slopes and hills.”
Use Attachments safely
The numerous attachments available to enhance skid-steer versatility can also present certain safety risks if not used properly. As such, it’s important to follow manufacturer recommendations for both the attachment and the machine.
“The most important aspect of attachment safety is matching the attachment to the skid steer’s lift capabilities,” says Wright. “You never want to exceed the rated operating capacity or flow capacities of the loader. Overloading the operating capacity or hydraulic rates can cause the unit to tip forward or cause hydraulic components to fail.”
“Only use attachments that are approved by the manufacturer for use with your skid-steer loader, and follow any additional warnings and instructions pertaining to the specific attachment,” Warkenthien adds. In many cases, a manufacturer provides a separate operator manual for the attachment, which should be reviewed prior to use.
Next, make sure you choose the appropriate attachment. “Attachments are application specific. Some applications require specific attachments and skid-steer options to safely perform the job,” O’Brien notes. For example, a scrap grapple used to pick up demolition debris has the potential for debris to fall back on the machine. In this situation, a cab enclosure kit should be considered to restrict material from entering the cab.
Once an attachment is selected, make sure it is properly connected to the skid-steer coupler prior to operation. “Check that the skid steer’s coupler pins or wedges are fully engaged into the attachment frame,” Warkenthien advises.