4 Backhoe Safety Tips
When you learn to operate heavy machinery at a school like West Coast Training, you will learn to make safety an absolute top priority, emphasized at all times. As you might expect, being behind the controls of powerful equipment such as dozers and backhoes means that you need to be extremely diligent about detecting and avoiding any and all hazards at the job site. While you might be the heavy equipment operator, all of your coworkers will be counting on you to operate the equipment in the safest manner possible.
Below, we’ve outlined four of the most important backhoe safety tips that you should always keep in mind when operating this type of machinery. Note that this list is in no way comprehensive and not intended to replace dedicated safety training: it’s simply a starting point toward safe practices with backhoes and similar equipment.
Safety Tip #1: Familiarize Yourself With the Equipment, Including the Manual
While this article focuses on backhoes, as they’re a very specific type of machinery, this tip can apply to any type of heavy equipment. The fact is that, while there are certainly overlapping skillsets between the various machinery types, they are also very different from each other and require specialized training. This is why schools like West Coast Training offer training for different heavy equipment types, such as dozers, excavators, loaders, and so on.
Before you begin working with a backhoe, it’s important to familiarize yourself with every aspect of its operation. Read the manual and memorize the characteristics of your particular machine. It might seem obvious, but injuries have occurred because workers did not take the time to learn simple but critical details such as where the brakes on their machines were located.
Safety Tip #2: Don’t Rush Things
It can be easy to get in a hurry, as work sites can become harried, and the job can start to feel rushed. Nevertheless, inattentiveness due to trying to go too fast can lead to serious accidents with heavy equipment. This also applies when you are driving the machine. Remember that, due to its heavy arm, a backhoe is very susceptible to becoming imbalanced. Drive it too fast downhill, for example, and it can end up overturning. Always drive a backhoe at a relatively slow speed, and don’t rush the inspection or set-up process. If conditions become challenging, slow the machine down even more.
Safety Tip #3: Know Your Work Area
Before you begin any task with a backhoe, make sure you thoroughly inspect the area where you are working to be aware of any hazards that might be nearby. Because the arm on a backhoe raises high up vertically, it can become caught on obstacles such as powerlines, so don’t just look for obstacles at ground level. Look up, down, and all around you before starting a job.
Safety Tip #4: Keep Your Backhoe Balanced
One of the most critical backhoe safety tips is to remember that this type of machine can be thrown off balance if care is not taken in its operation. Because a backhoe uses an arm for excavation, it can become too heavy and cause the machine to pitch forward or overturn. Work to make sure your machine is balanced, and never exceed the manufacturer’s recommended capacity. When you are using the machine for excavating on an incline, always dump the load uphill. Dumping a load downhill can throw off the machine’s center of gravity and cause it to tip over.