Summer is coming. That’s what we keep telling ourselves here in the Rockies. The weather doesn’t reflect it, but construction work is ramping up here and across the nation. With that in mind, it is a great time for some safety reminders. Today, we will discuss some tips that will keep you safe while working on a skid steer.
Safety begins long before the first hole is dug. Pre-plan for safety by setting up barricades, convex mirrors, warning signs, and other precautions. Because wind, pedestrians, and traffic can easily upset barricades, it is equally important that you maintain these as needed throughout the day so that no unauthorized bystanders or workers enter the work zone.
Just because skid steers can plow through all types of terrain doesn’t mean you do not have to be concerned about or pre-plan for certain site conditions. Ice, slopes, and soil conditions can all affect traction and stability.
Lastly, plan for the appropriate lighting, especially if you will be working in early morning hours or at night. Do not drive in the dark unless the loader is equipped with operable lights. Using a truck’s headlights as the main source of light will not be sufficient. Poor lighting can affect visibility and lead to an accident.
Every day brings with it the potential for an accident when you’re working with heavy machinery. Pre-shift inspections are preventative in nature; if you do them right, they will prevent accidents from happening. They might even save your life or the life of those you work with. So, under no circumstances should you skip or skimp when it comes to consistently and thoroughly inspecting your equipment prior to use.
Enter & Exit Safely
Aside from pre-operation checks and planning, safe operations start with entering the machine safely. It may seem simple, but injuries from incorrectly entering the machine can and do happen all the time. This is especially true for skid steers. Here are some things to consider when entering the machine:
- Use the three-point contact method (foot-step, handle, handle)
- Never use foot or hand controls for steps or handholds
- Keep the handles and steps free from grease or grime
- Be careful when the conditions are muddy, wet, or icy (one slip is all it takes)
- Slowly and carefully rotate your body and ease back into the cab/seat
- Position yourself comfortably to avoid injury or inadvertently hitting any controls
- Fasten your seatbelt and lower the restraint/lap bar
When exiting, follow the same precautions. Also, make sure that the bucket or other attachment is flat on the ground, the parking brake set, and the engine turned off. Never attempt to enter or exit the skid steer if the lift arms are raised, unless the lift arm supports or locks have been engaged for the purpose of maintenance.
Never operate a machine that needs repair. The skid steer’s owner’s manual contains guidelines for inspections and maintenance. Follow it and document what kind of maintenance was done and when. If you take care of your body — inside and out — you’ll most likely live longer. The same goes for your skid steer. Don’t ignore it. Routine maintenance should be done “routinely,” and by someone who is trained and authorized.
Anyone who operates heavy equipment must receive training and receive supervisor authorization prior to operating the machine on their own. When it comes to refresher training, OSHA’s standards in some instances (like forklifts) are very specific: operators must be re-evaluated every three years to see if they are still competent to operate the equipment. Best practices say to apply this same rule to all types of equipment, including skid steers. (See the standard)
Initial training, as well as any evaluations or refresher courses, must be documented with the name of the person or persons who taught the class or conducted the evaluation.
Construction work can be hazardous. Make sure you and your crew are following these skid steer tips to increase your chances of going home safely.
Good luck and stay safe!