Safety Best Practices

4 Ways to Promote Safety Around Heavy Equipment

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Amandeep Beesla
Safety Insight & Innovation
5 min read
September 22, 2021

A significant percentage of all onsite construction safety issues involves heavy equipment. Not every site has or needs such equipment. But when they do, serious safety and hazard awareness protocols are in order. Heavy equipment always constitutes a potential hazard, regardless of purpose or function. Of course, you can lower the risks associated with such equipment with judicious planning and adherence to sensible guidelines. And when it comes to planning and guidelines, good news: new software and other technological advancements can make ensuring heavy equipment safety easier than ever.

Start With Pre-Operational Safety Plans

Prevention is always preferable to response, and the more you can do before your project gets underway, the better. This applies to planning the site’s daily schedule as well as the overall picture for the project. This should begin as early as possible, ideally while bidding is still underway. Assess the amount of heavy equipment involved, making sure to include any additional construction equipment that may not be necessary initially, but might become so in the event of the unexpected.

Preparing before a construction project begins makes heavy equipment safety much easier.

With that list in mind, note licensing and operational requirements for each piece of equipment, as well as which employees are qualified to operate it. Note any potential hazards that might interfere with the equipment’s functioning, such as low-hanging electrical cables or potential drops.

With these hazards identified, draw up step-by-step lists for how to reduce each risk to a minimum. Establish a schedule for reminders and similar prompts, and a plan for what to do in the event something unexpected happens. Specific, qualified employees should be given clear responsibilities at each step, along with further steps allowing for accountability and transparency. This includes both small steps, such as safety and toolbox meetings, and larger ones such as operational supervisory procedures. Each piece of heavy equipment should have a checklist covering all of the above information pertinent to operation and overall site safety.

The time to do this is before work begins, because it gives you the time to get everything prepared. It pays to have the right procedure ready to go when equipment is in use, rather than scrambling later. Attempting to solve an issue on the fly is never a good call. That puts both time and worker safety on the line.

Assign Spotters To Ensure Daily Equipment Safety

A spotter is a second employee assigned to each piece of heavy construction equipment. They serve as the operator’s eyes and ears during work, as most heavy equipment has blind spots. Forklifts, for example, need monitoring to ensure that the load doesn’t become loose and there aren’t any obstacles the driver can’t see. Spotting for forklifts and other kinds of heavy equipment is an absolute necessity for proper safety. It can be a tempting corner to cut, but doing so innately increases the risk of accidents. Full-time spotters should be employed for any piece of heavy equipment. A company devoted to the safety of its employees and the efficient project procedures would do well to devote sufficient resources to spotter acquisition.

Every piece of equipment has specific safety measures and training protocols that must be followed. Ideally, every spotter has the qualifications to run the equipment they’re spotting for, along with practical experience so they know where blind spots or similar troubles might lie. That extends not only to other heavy equipment like cranes and bulldozers, but also things like electrical cables, which may present a hazard if certain equipment is used nearby. Employers can help by establishing and regulating hand signals, ensuring that qualified personnel are involved, and ensuring that spotters can focus on their job instead of juggling other duties.

Maintain Safety Best Practices Around Heavy Equipment

Just as important as preparing for heavy equipment safety is following daily procedures for securing, operating, and inspecting said equipment. That often translates to common-sense construction safety practices, along with more formal safety regulations that should be in place as a matter of course:

  • Workers need to wear reflector vests and other high visibility clothing whenever in the vicinity of heavy equipment.
  • Look for swing radiuses and other functional factors involved in the operation of heavy equipment. Make sure all team members are aware of them, and that unimpeded paths around them are provided.
  • Established a clearly defined and well-marked route for the equipment to function.
  • Team members should be briefed on blind spots, awkward movements or any other potential hazards of heavy equipment.
  • Establish work areas well clear of any heavy equipment if at all possible.
  • Make sure workers are aware of suspended loads and other potential hazards that might be overhead.
  • Make sure anyone moving in the area of a piece of heavy equipment makes eye contact with the operator, so they are aware of each other and can respond appropriately.
  • Never ride on a piece of heavy equipment in anything other than a designated seat. Always wear a seatbelt while the equipment is in operation.

Developing such routines can help embed construction safety as part of your company culture.

Ensure Heavy Equipment Safety Compliance With Salus

When it comes to heavy equipment safety, a digital solution is the ideal way to go. An integrated construction site safety app like Salus can keep every aspect of of your safety plan centralized in one place. The Salus app’s features allow you to process forms, integrate safety regulation checklists, provide compliance management tools, and monitor construction site safety compliance from anywhere. It eliminates time-consuming paperwork without sacrificing accuracy, letting you set up your construction site safety plan quickly and easily.

If heavy equipment is involved in one of your projects, and you’re looking for better ways to ensure its safe use, contact Salus today to book a demonstration!

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