Other ride-on and large equipment/machinery

Serious or fatal accidents in the landscape industry often involve ride-on and other types of large machines – skid-steer loaders, compact excavators, trenchers, compact utility loaders and wood chippers, in addition to mowers. Rollover, struck-by, caught-between and pulled-into accidents are among the most common.

Such accidents can be prevented when company leaders provide well-maintained machines equipped with working safety devices and when employees follow safety guidelines, use caution and are alert to the presence of fellow workers, other machines and their surroundings in general.

The following checklists can help both groups along those paths.

Note: All machine models are different, and this information is not a substitute for reading operating manuals for the particular machines your company uses. This information is meant to supplement specific information contained in those manuals. Additional precautions are necessary, and some instructions might not apply, depending on the equipment and attachments.

Checklist for Supervisors

  • Remember you are responsible for properly training employees to operate each machine they use. Since operation varies by manufacturer and model, employees must receive specific training for each particular machine they use.

  • Ensure employees read operating manuals and safety decals attached to machines. If an employee can’t read the manual, have someone explain the safety messages and ensure the employee understands. For employees who speak little or no English, provide training in their native languages. Federal OSHA requires you to ensure employees understand training in safe work practices and hazards.

  • Provide workers with and make sure they wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) given the types of machinery they are operating or working near.

  • Don’t allow employees operating wood chippers to wear jewelry, loose clothing, gloves with cuffs, or tree-climbing equipment that could get caught in the machines. These items include jewelry, loose clothing, gloves with cuffs, or tree-climbing equipment.

  • Make sure machines are maintained properly and safety guards and mechanisms remain in place. This includes systems that shut off ride-on trenchers when weight is not detected in the seat.

  • Provide machines equipped with TOPS (tip-over protective structure) or ROPS (roll-over protective structure) and seat belts whenever possible.

  • Replace any ROPS/TOPS subjected to a rollover or damage. Do not attempt to repair it as welding, drilling, cutting or adding to the structure could weaken it.

  • Make careful determinations regarding the operation of machines on slopes. Before allowing an employee to use any machine on a slope, determine whether the operation can be performed safely.

  • Train employees to be aware of machine load capacities. They should know these capacities change when they operate on slopes. Make sure they have access to and can correctly interpret rated-lift-capacity charts for applicable machines.

  • Hold refresher training. Routinely and as related situations arise, supervisors and crew members should review general safety procedures regarding operating equipment as well as manufacturers’ manuals that deal with this topic. Also reinforce training through regular safety talks.

  • Closely supervise new hires and those new to operating particular machines. Ensure they follow safety training.

  • When an employee engages in unsafe work practices, take immediate corrective action. This could include refresher instruction and/or disciplinary measures.

Crew Member Guidelines:

In general:
  • Do not operate a machine until you have been properly trained. You should receive training specific to the particular model you will be operating and fully understand this training.

  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) given the types of machinery you are operating or working near.

  • Inspect each machine according to your training and/or the machine’s operating manual before you operate it. Bring any problems to your supervisor’s attention.

Compact Excavators:
  • Make sure the machine’s folding TOPS/ROPS, if equipped, is raised and locked in place.

  • Wear the seat belt.

  • Know the load capacity and operating characteristics of the compact excavator. Make sure you have and know how to use a rated-lift-capacity chart for the machine.

  • Make machine movements slowly and smoothly.

  • Level the working area and machine as much as possible.

  • Swing the boom to the uphill side to dump loads.

  • Don’t move the boom while traveling.

  • Avoid slopes when possible. Don’t operate on slopes with slippery ground conditions.

  • If you must travel on a slope, use extreme caution. Keep the boom centered and the attachment as low and close to the machine as you can.

  • Don’t drive across slopes. Drive straight up and down them instead.

  • Extend the retractable track frame, if equipped, when operating on slopes.

  • If the machine starts to roll, tip or slide, stay in the machine with the seat belt fastened. Lower the attachment immediately, hold on firmly, brace your feet on the floor and lean away from the point of impact.

  • Don’t turn on a slope if you can avoid it. If you can’t, make a very wide turn slowly, with the boom centered and the attachment as low and close to the machine as possible.

  • Don’t work with the tracks across a slope as this will reduce stability and increase the tendency of the machine to slide. Position the machine with the tracks running up and down the slope and the blade on the downhill side and lowered.

  • Don’t operate the machine if the operator presence/seat interlock system, if equipped, is not functioning.

  • Maintain minimum ground speed and make wide turns.

  • Follow all safety precautions related to avoiding underground utility strikes. (See the Jobsite Safety section of this website.)

  • Enter and exit ground slowly with digging components.

  • Avoid steep slopes and use extreme caution on others.

  • Drive the machine up and down slopes, not across them.

  • Keep the heavy end of the machine pointed uphill.

  • Know that vibration can make the trencher slip sideways down a slope.

  • Don’t start, stop or turn suddenly on a slope.

Compact Utility Loaders (aka compact tool carriers):
  • Travel and turn slowly and smoothly and with the lift arms down. Traveling with the arms raised could cause a tip-over.

  • Carry the load as low as possible.

  • Make sure you have and know how to use a rated-lift-capacity chart for the machine.

  • Don’t operate on steep slopes.

  • Don’t accelerate or decelerate suddenly or turn on slopes.

  • Travel up and down slopes, never across them.

  • Keep the heavy end of the machine on the uphill side when operating on slopes. Generally, when not carrying a load, the rear of the compact utility loader is the heavy end. When carrying a load, the front of the machine becomes the heavy end.

Skid-steer loaders:
  • Operate controls smoothly.

  • Keep the load as low as possible when travelling. Never travel on a slope with a raised load.

  • Ensure a loaded bucket is level.

  • Do not start, stop or turn suddenly.

  • Plan your operation so you load, unload and make turns on level ground.

  • Do not modify the loader’s ROPS in any way.

  • Avoid steep slopes.

  • If you must travel on a slope, first check ground conditions for adequate traction. Loss of traction can cause the loader to slide and tip.

  • Drive straight up and down slopes, not across them.

  • Operate with the heavy end of the loader on the uphill side. When the bucket is loaded, the bucket should be pointed uphill. When the bucket is empty, it should be on the downhill side.

Wood chippers:
  • Block the tires after detaching the machine from a towing vehicle. Ensure the tires are blocked before operating.

  • Post warning signs to keep the public a safe distance from the chipping area. Make sure the discharge chute is pointed away from people and property and is locked into position.

  • Keep the work area free of trip hazards such as branches and debris.

  • Don’t wear jewelry, loose clothing, gloves with cuffs, or tree-climbing equipment that could get caught in a chipping machine. Do tuck in your shirt.

  • Remove the key from the ignition prior to inspecting the machine. Test all safety and emergency shutoff devices before operating the chipper.

  • Feed the large, cut end of brush and logs into the chipper first.

  • Stand to the side of the in-feed chute while feeding material.

  • Stop immediately and check the chipper for damage if there’s any extra noise or vibration.

  • Shut down and lock out the chipper before performing any maintenance.

  • Don’t operate a chipper alone.

  • Don’t leave open or unsecured any access covers, doors, fasteners or locks before starting the chipper.

  • Don’t put hands or feet in the in-feed hopper area. Use a wooden push tool to feed short material.

  • Don’t feed small debris into the chipper. Instead, place it in a trash can or directly in the chip box.

  • Don’t stand, sit, or climb on any part of the machine while it is running.

  • Don’t stand in front of the feed table or discharge chute. Be aware the chipper could discharge debris long after feeding has stopped.

  • Don’t leave a chipper unattended without shutting it down, removing keys from the ignition, chocking the wheels, and applying the parking brake.