Three Things to Always Remember When Using an Excavator

December 6, 2021

Excavators are one of the most common machines seen on worksites, and it’s not hard to see why. These machines are incredibly useful for all kinds of tasks, and are often used for digging, lifting, excavating, or even demolition work. However, this versatility also means that operators need to be prepared to work safely in all kinds of environments. While there are many specific things you need to know for specific tasks, let’s look at three general tips to keep in mind for all excavator and backhoe work.

The first thing that any operator should do for any excavator work is understand their machine and how to use it. This starts with knowing the operator’s manual. While this may seem obvious, many excavator operators use their machine without ever referencing their operator’s manual. This can cause unsafe practices to be used and mistakes to be made. Operator’s manuals have information on all kind of topics, such as how to use controls and when to perform maintenance. Manuals usually have charts that show how much the machine’s load capacity is too, and this information is key to preventing tip overs.

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These lift charts are a key factor to stability, which is the next thing all operators should keep in mind. Because excavators are lifting heavy loads with long arms, the leverage can easily cause a tip over if you aren’t careful. When it comes to stability, all operators need to be aware of certain factors. Excavator manufacturer Bobcat recommends that operators lift on firm, level, and supportive surfaces. In addition, operators should lift squarely over either the side or ends of the machine, as this helps prevent tipping. Moving while carrying a load also brings added risk of a tip over, so avoid this whenever possible, and take extra care if you must move while carrying a load.

Operators also should be aware of their surroundings at all times while using the excavator. Pedestrians and other workers shouldn’t enter the swing area of the machine’s arm, as this presents the risk of being struck by the bucket. In fact, NIOSH identified struck-by hazards to be the two most common causes of injury when working with excavators and backhoes. Operators also need to avoid utilities that might be overhead or underground. Contact your area’s one-call number to mark any underground pipes, wires, or lines. Avoid any overhead power lines, as electricity can arc to the machine even without direct contact.

Excavators are useful for all kinds of tasks, but this means that operators need to take certain actions to stay safe. These general tips will help in almost any situation involving an excavator.

If you need more information, check out our training series on Excavators.

Good luck, and stay safe!