Prevent workplace injuries by ensuring your equipment has the necessary safety features.

first is Safety often heard on the jobsite. But do you consider safety first when buying or leasing equipment? In an effort to keep equipment costs down, safe procedures often go by the wayside.

However, it is more important to have safe equipment than equipment with fancy capabilities. According to the National Safety Council, the average cost of all workplace fatal and nonfatal injuries (including wage and productivity losses, medical expenses and administrative expenses) is substantial. The cost averages more than $1.3 million for a fatal injury and about $50,000 for a nonfatal injury.

Getting safe equipment and following safety best practices prevents life-altering and devastating on-the-job injuries, lost time, workers' compensation payouts, legal actions and harmful media coverage.

Important Safety Features


Safety features vary among models and manufacturers. When buying used equipment, the main concern is whether all the safety features are intact and functioning properly.

Some of the must-have safety items are obvious - such as the horn, lights and brakes. But other items require more than a quick glance. Before purchasing your next piece of equipment, consider the following elements to ensure worker safety:

  • Rollover Protection-The equipment should have a rollover protective structure (ROPS). The quality of the equipment's structure is paramount. It should not be welded or drilled. A strong ROPS, combined with seat-belt use, is highly effective in preventing fatalities and serious injuries if a rollover occurs.
  • Seat belts-Check the expiration dates on the seat belts. Seat belts should be changed out every two years, especially if the piece of equipment has an open cab exposing the belts to the elements, which causes them to deteriorate over time.
  • Travel Alarm-Be sure the travel alarm works. Bring the operator along to test drive it before purchasing. The alarm should sound when the machine moves backward, and excavators should have a travel alarm for movement in any direction. Consider it an added bonus if the equipment has backup video cameras.
  • Proper Startup-A machine should only start when it is in neutral (or when parked if that is an option). If it cannot do this, it should be retrofitted with a neutral start switch. Equipment should not start from the ground with a simple tool like a screwdriver. A cover over the starter should be retrofitted to ensure startup happens from the cab.
  • Warning Labels-The warning labels must all be in place, especially for users who are unfamiliar with the equipment. The labels should be written in English and Spanish.

Inspection Checklist

If the equipment passes these safety checks, conduct a final inspection.

  • Check for minor damage to the cab, frame, attachments, etc.
  • Confirm that moving parts (gears, drums, shafts, belts) and all hot surfaces (exhaust lines, pipes) are guarded.
  • Examine piece-specific devices that have been added for safety. Check the owner's manual to locate them.
  • With the equipment started and in motion, check the error-indicators on the front panel.
  • Confirm that the gauges and displays function properly.
  • Listen for abnormal noises. (This is another reason to bring an experienced operator.)
  • Ensure exhausts and discharges are directed in a way that would not endanger personnel or obstruct the operator's view.

Equipment Dealerships

Placing an emphasis on obtaining safe equipment sends a clear message to employees that safety is a core value in the company, not just a catch phrase heard on the job. Buying safe equipment shows that you are committed to your workers and their families, and it creates a constant safety presence demonstrating that safety is your top priority.

To improve the chances of owning a safe, quality machine, buying a machine from a dealer is an option. Most dealerships provide certification for used equipment, which includes all pertinent safety checks. Many also offer warranties on used, older model equipment. Dealership staff members also tend to be well-trained and well-versed in the equipment they sell.



Construction Business Owner, August 2011