Health and safety should be at the forefront whenever it comes to the operation of earth moving equipment and excavators in particular. Those responsible for these machines and the personnel who operate them should take into account some studies conducted by the British government watchdog. The results of these studies, which translate perfectly well to operations in Australia, point to problems caused by inadvertent operation of control mechanisms within the cab. Individual operators may have some experience of the potentially disastrous consequences associated with inadvertent tool operation. There are a number of safeguards to put in place, and some ground rules that should be initiated right away by management teams.
Be Careful What You Wear
The individual operator should be encouraged to take all steps to minimise the risk by, first of all, avoiding any loose clothing. In colder weather it may be traditional to wear very bulky, high visibility coats. These can easily catch on a tracking lever or joystick when an operator is getting into or out of a machine, or otherwise twisting in the seat. These heavy jackets should be replaced by tighter fitting "bomber" style jackets instead, at least when inside a cab.
Watch the Safety Lever
Operators are also warned to be careful when entering or exiting an excavator, so that they do not inadvertently activate the safety lever. Some people would argue that this is situated in an awkward position on the left side of the seat, and that the manufacturers should find a better location for this device. Some excavators have an additional "enable" switch, which negates the problem to a large extent and management teams should consider extending this functionality to their whole fleet.
Careless Talk Costs Lives!
Operators are also advised not to engage workers in conversation while sitting in the cab of an excavator. Due to the ambient noise this almost always involves the machine operator leaning forward and to one side. When this happens the joystick can be inadvertently activated, leading to impact injuries, especially if workers are in close proximity during this conversation.
Fit Automatic Kill Switches
The report also advises the fitment of a cut-off function for the hydraulic system of an excavator. The engines of these machines already have an automatic "idle" function that is designed to kick in after a certain time frame. This functionality should be extended so that when the engine is forced into idle mode, the tool functionality is similarly disabled. This should avoid the accidental operation of controls when the operator is not concentrating fully.
For more information, contact Aussie Earthworks.