Guidelines to follow when operating skid-steer loaders and telescopic forklifts
Construction zones can be unpredictable and full of hazards—workers encounter huge machinery, multiple kinds of building supplies and high amounts of instability from loose sand, gravel or dirt. But a construction site must have the proper equipment to get the job done correctly, efficiently, on time and under budget.
Many construction sites use skid-steer loaders and telescopic forklifts. Both machines provide ample power and support for various construction activities, such as moving dirt piles or putting pillars of steel in the correct place. But when workers do not safely operate this equipment, these machines can cause severe injuries.
Since this construction equipment creates additional hazards, proper training on best safety practices and hazard awareness must be incorporated into your overall jobsite safety plan to prevent accidents.
Know the Construction Machines
Both skid-steer loaders and telescopic forklifts can be valuable to have on construction sites because they can work on rough terrain and uneven surfaces. The skid-steer loader has a compact design, making it versatile and handy. Its zero-radius turning ability, combined adjustable speed capabilities and mechanically-synchronized left and right wheel systems that can be driven individually promotes easy maneuverability around sites and makes it possible to fit into tight spaces. Since skid-steer loaders have optional front attachments, they can be used for several types of jobs.
Telescopic forklifts can be driven more safely over rough terrain than a standard forklift. They also can extend their reach capacity further than a standard forklift (forward and upward), giving them a dual functionality to operate as forklifts that can remove pallets from narrow, tight spaces and as cranes that can place loads on rooftops or other high places.
Recognize the Hazards
The traits that make both of these powerful machines useful also cause potential dangers. For instance, when operators sit in the cabs of skid-steer loaders, they will be close to moving parts on three sides. The skid-steer loader’s high maneuvering capacity coupled with its purposely unbalanced design without a load makes them prone to becoming unstable and tipping if operators do not handle them carefully. Be sure your operators know how to keep these machines balanced at all times.
Telescopic forklifts are large, heavy-duty vehicles equipped with a boom for extended reach. With their ability to handle very heavy loads, telescopic forklifts have a greater potential to become unstable. Even though counterweights on the lift afford some level of stabilization, the boom will not be able to lift as much weight the further it is raised and extended.
Equipment operators must understand the stability triangle of this forklift to stabilize the center of gravity and prevent the load from falling on anyone.
No one should ever operate a skid-steer loader or a telescopic forklift unless they have received appropriate training and have been authorized to use this equipment.
Follow Best Construction Safety Practices
Equipment operators and supervisors should understand the capabilities and limitations of all heavy equipment used on-site to keep themselves and all crew members safe. Skilled operators can protect themselves and others by staying within their machines’ operating limits and following best safety practices.
To lower the risk of your workers encountering a dangerous situation with a skid-steer loader or telescopic forklift, ask them to follow these protocols:
- Read the operator’s manual— different types of skid-steer loaders and forklifts may have different operating procedures.
- Conduct a pre-start inspection before operating the equipment—inspect safety features, tire pressure, engine, fuel/fluid levels, etc., to ensure the machine is in safe operating condition.
- Understand the dangers the machine could impose—know where to stand when outside of the cab, how to get into and out of the cab and what to do when inside the cab. Also, understand the safety features.
- Find out each machine’s weight shift abilities—depending on the load, the machine’s balance and center of gravity can be greatly affected, and operators must know how to react and control the weight shift.
- Protect yourself—wear appropriate PPE, including proper footwear, safety glasses, hearing protection, gloves, a high-visibility safety vest, respirators, etc.
- Be aware of the surroundings— operators are not only responsible for their own safety but also for the safety of others around the jobsite.
- Be patient with the machine—moving large objects or loose materials too fast and driving at high speeds may increase the chance of accidents and injuries.
With the proper training on best practices and safety instructions for these machines, productivity increases along with the health, safety and morale of the workers.