The capacity to buy and use heavy equipment is one of the main things that separate a small business from a large one. This heavy equipment allows big business to run at a scale that would never be possible otherwise. However, these machines do come with certain risks. Many horrific and expensive accidents have occurred because someone was allowed to operate heavy machinery without the necessary knowledge and skills. Others have occurred due to equipment failures, some of which can be hard to predict.
It is difficult to write about general heavy equipment safety because every machine works differently and thus has its own unique set of rules. In the absence of a unified rule set, we will be looking at one specific type of machinery and giving you five ways that you can help to ensure a safer working environment for those using it. The machine that we will concentrate on is the common bulldozer.
- Be Careful About Access:
Only licensed and qualified operators should be allowed to drive a bulldozer. Considering the high destructive potential of a machine like this, you could actually be held criminally liable for failure to secure it properly.
Among those who work for you, it should be well-known that no one is even allowed to come near a bulldozer without permission. Make sure you let them know that the consequences for attempting to operate a dozer without permission will include termination. In practice, you might choose to give someone a warning if they have not been made aware of the rules (as sometimes happens), but make sure everyone understands the gravity of the situation.
As for your licensed operators, they have the responsibility of keeping track of the keys that make the dozer work. It is a fact that sometimes, mischievous young kids will wander onto a construction site in the hope that someone left the keys in a bulldozer. The legal ramifications for the owner can be monumental if an accident occurs under these circumstances. Make sure that the machine is locked out, tagged out, and that the keys are kept in a secure location at any time when they are not in use.
- Use Signs, Flaggers, and Barricades
When a piece of large and destructive equipment like a dozer is being used, there is a great risk to anyone standing nearby. This is because of the fact that a bulldozer driver has to concentrate on what he is doing to avoid mistakes. Also, a dozer driver does not have perfect 360-degree visibility in most cases. Even if he does, it will be very difficult to watch everything at all times.
This is why you always need to take measures to keep other workers away from a bulldozer when it is in operation. Signs should be posted around the restricted area, and cordage or flagging tape should be used to connect the signs. This will create a lightweight but clearly understandable barrier between your workers and your equipment.
If you are using your dozer to fix a stretch of road, you need to use barricades to keep the general public out. A large concrete barricade is ideal but is not necessarily required in all instances. There are certain people on the road who just cannot drive properly, and others who may be impaired by alcohol, drugs, or just plain stupidity. Unlike your workers, these people owe you no allegiance and are more difficult to control, so don’t leave any opportunities for random fools.
The use of flaggers is probably a good idea as well. People might ignore a warning sign or some flagging tape, but it is very hard to ignore a person with a flag telling you that you cannot pass.
- Rubber Tracks
Many dozers have steel tracks, like the military tanks whose development they inspired. While these are necessary for the roughest ground, they are not necessary for every job. If your dozer is primarily working on blacktop or stable ground, all-rubber tracks might be a better option, and they do offer some safety advantages. One of the advantages is that a malfunction is likely to be less dangerous to the operator and anyone standing around. Another advantage is the fact that rubber eliminates the possibility of rust. This means one less part that has to be coated with enamel, and one less part that might fail as a result of rust. When a bulldozer track breaks as a result of a rusted link, the resulting piece can whip around and possibly hit someone. At the bare minimum, there will be a risk of damaging the dozer. Rubber treads are also easier to change out, which means that you will experience less downtime.
- Shut Off The Engine When Refueling
We have all been told, time and again, that it is important to shut off your engine before putting fuel in your car. While this is a well-known fact, it is also common for people to disregard it. I have seen quite a few people refuel their cars without shutting them off, and I admit that I have even done it myself in the past.
However, a bulldozer carries a little more risk. This is not a rule that you can get away with breaking on occasion. First of all, a bulldozer generally carries more fuel than a car, which means that a fire or explosion would likely be much worse than what you would see from a car fire. Another problem is that, since most refueling will be done at the job site, there is more potential for collateral damage. The bottom line is that an exploding bulldozer would be far worse than an exploding car.
- Check The Ground Beforehand
This one is very obvious; So obvious that it is prone to be forgotten. Anytime that a piece of heavy machinery encounters an unexpected problem, there is the potential for disaster. So, before they even start the engine, you should make sure that your workers know how to scout out the ground upon which it will be running. Look for potholes, soft spots, excessively rocky spots, and anything else that could get in the way.
Following all of these rules should result in a safe and profitable experience for you and your company.