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Heavy Equipment Hazards Toolbox Talk

In this toolbox talk, learn how to be aware of the hazards created by working around heavy equipment and how to avoid these hazards safely.

Working Around Heavy Equipment Safety Talk

Working in construction can be a more dangerous job than others, especially when working around heavy equipment. Heavy equipment such as cranes, dump trucks, excavators, bulldozers, and other large machines are used on construction sites every single day. There are hazards to not only those who operate the machines, but also those that work around the machines. It’s easy to let your guard down when you’ve been working with heavy machinery for a long time, but by making some wise choices, you can reduce your risk of accidents.

Between 1992 and 2010, The Center for Construction Research and Training reports that heavy and mobile equipment was responsible for 7,681 construction worker deaths. Making sure you are aware of the risks and hazards of working around heavy equipment is important for your personal safety as well as the safety of your coworkers.

Hazards Created By Heavy Equipment

There are countless different hazard scenarios when working with heavy equipment. It’s virtually impossible to list all heavy equipment hazards in this safety document, so we are going to go over some of the most common accidents that are responsible for the majority of injuries and deaths. By understanding what the most common causes of heavy equipment accidents to injure workers are, you can help yourself avoid accidents and injuries on the job.

Struck-By Incidents

One of the most common occurrences of deaths on a worksite are struck-by incidents, where ground workers get struck by moving equipment such as cranes, bulldozers, or wrecking balls. According to OSHA, over 75% of struck-by fatalities involve trucks or cranes.

Employees Should Be Aware of Their Surroundings

Each employee should be aware of their worksite surroundings and should work hard to protect their safety as well as the safety of their coworkers. When using heavy equipment, the work area should be clearly marked and barricaded.

As ground personnel enter areas where there is heavy equipment operating, they should very clearly make their presence known to all of the operators in the area. If operators lose sight of ground personnel at any point, they should stop their work task immediately.

Avoid Backing up Heavy Machinery

By avoiding backing up the heavy machinery, the risk of accidentally being run over is greatly reduced. If the equipment is operating in a tight area or when operating around ground personnel, a spotter should be used. In certain situations, using a spotter can actually make the task more dangerous, so discretion should be used accordingly. Planning tasks and using a spotter correctly are great ways to reduce the risk of injuries on the job site.

Caught-In or Between Accidents

While these accidents are very similar to struck-by accidents, there are some differences. When an object strikes a person and creates an injury, that is a struck-by injury. A caught-in or between accident occurs when there is crushing between two objects. If there was an excavator bucket swinging around an open field and it struck a construction worker, that would be a struck-by incident.

If a worker was struck by an excavator counterweight that pinned him against a wall, that would be considered a caught-in or between incident. Many of the same safety measures listed above will be helpful in avoiding workers being in caught-in or between accidents.

Leave Yourself an “Out”

One very important tip in avoiding these accidents is to always leave yourself an “out” and to stay out of the line of fire. With regards to the line of fire, you should always consider the safest place to be around the equipment to avoid getting struck or caught by the equipment. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you don’t have an escape from the danger. It’s extremely important to have a way out of a harmful situation to avoid becoming a victim of accidents.

heavy equipment on a construction site.

How to Avoid Heavy Equipment Accidents

To avoid struck-by or caught-in accidents caused by heavy equipment, being aware of your surroundings at all times is a huge part of staying safe. When you know exactly what is going on around you, you can be aware of your way out as well as avoiding the heavy equipment. Making sure that your coworkers know when you’re in the area is also very helpful as they then know your location so they can avoid incidents as well.

1. Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks

Sometimes short cuts seem like a good idea, but when working around heavy machinery, it can be a recipe for disaster. Utilizing the safety protocols we put in place is for the good of yourself as well as the good of your coworkers. Safety protocols outlined through toolbox talks or your construction equipment management app should be followed. Reducing the chance of having accidents by not taking unnecessary risks is a simple way to promote safety.

2. Only Use Machinery for Which you are Properly Trained

Even machines that are properly operated are at risk of malfunctioning. It can be tempting to use equipment that may make your job easier, but if you haven’t been properly trained on it, please don’t use it. There is proper training for all heavy equipment, and oftentimes a worker must obtain proper licensure and hands-on training before being able to operate.

Failure to learn how to use a machine before operating heavy equipment can increase the risk of injury and even death. By avoiding using machines which you aren’t trained in, it is an excellent way to reduce the risk of injury.

3. Wear the Proper Safety Gear

Working around heavy machinery requires wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as helmets, steel toe boots, and vests, and when you make sure you are wearing these items, you can protect yourself from dangerous objects. Workers who are around any type of heavy machinery that requires safety equipment must make sure to always wear proper safety gear.

Failure to wear the correct gear can leave workers of dangers that generally can be avoided. It is extremely important for workers to always remember that it is better to exercise caution and wear too much safety gear as opposed to not enough.

Appropriate safety gear often includes:

  • Back gear

  • Earplugs

  • Goggles

  • Hard hats

  • Sharp-toed shoes

Use the Safety Tips to Avoid Injuries and Accidents

By utilizing the above safety best practices, you can reduce your own risk of injury or accident, and help reduce it in your coworkers as well. By working together, we can eliminate many of the injuries that occur when working with heavy machinery. Due diligence goes a long way.

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