Heavy Equipment Safety: Preventing Heavy Equipment Rollovers
Heavy equipment is safe when it’s well maintained and operated properly. It’s also true that just about every piece of heavy equipment is capable of tipping or rolling over under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Heavy equipment rollovers happen even to experienced operators, and they often result in serious injury or death. Yet rollovers are preventable.
Whether you operate a loader, excavator, compaction roller, snowplow or another piece of heavy equipment, remind yourself of the weight of the machine, then imagine ending up underneath it. To avoid such a tragedy, follow heavy equipment safety best practices, which include these tips to prevent or survive a rollover.
Preventing and surviving rollovers: 10 dos
Wear the seatbelt. The seatbelt is designed to keep you in the seat in the event of an accident, including a tip-over or rollover. If a rollover happens, you’re safer remaining inside the machine, within the rollover protection structure, than jumping out of it.
Check the ground conditions. Don’t operate on soft, wet or muddy ground unless you know the machine can handle the conditions. Stay off unstable slopes and weak or wet embankments.
Slow down. Speeding on gravel surfaces or over bumps can cause a rollover, as can turning aggressively.
Avoid slopes that are too steep for the machine. Consult the owner’s manual to learn the slope or grade the machine can safely handle. Don’t operate the machine on a steeper slope or higher grade.
Drive directly up or down slopes when possible. It’s safer to do so than to drive diagonally across the face of the slope. Remember to downshift for better traction.
Keep the wheels or tracks parallel to embankment edges. Positioning the machine this way helps reduce the risk of accidentally driving over the edge.
Keep the fill side higher when working next to an embankment. A higher fill side will help ensure that if the machine tips over, it will not tip over on the embankment side.
Cut a bench for the excavator to sit on when excavating a slope. The bench provides level ground for the machine.
Keep booms and front-end buckets low during transport and turning. Following this rule lowers the machine’s center of gravity, making a tip-over or rollover less likely.
Lower any attachments before exiting the machine. In addition, set the brake and chock the wheels if necessary.
Preventing and surviving rollovers: 6 don’ts
Don’t operate equipment you aren’t trained to use. Training is the key to heavy equipment safety. To legally operate some pieces of equipment, you need a license.
Don’t attempt to jump off tipping equipment. If the machine begins to tip, instinct may tell you to leap out of harm’s way on the high side of the machine, but that’s the wrong move. Some operators who’ve tried it have failed to clear the machine and were run over or crushed by it. Instead, stay in the cab with your seatbelt fastened, and hold on tight. If the machine does roll over, let the rollover protective system do its job.
Don’t exceed the machine’s rated lift or load capacity. Putting a large bucket on a small excavator or filling the bucket with material that’s too heavy for the machine, for example, increases the risk of tipping. Check the owner’s manual for the lift or load capacity of the machine.
Don’t drive too close to road edges. Mud, soft ground or loose gravel could cause the machine to go off the road.
Don’t park too close to the edge of a slope or embankment. If the ground gives way, the machine could tip or roll over. If you find it necessary to position the machine at the edge to get the job done, you likely need to use a different piece of equipment. If you’re digging a trench, for example, an excavator with an offset boom can allow you to maintain a safe distance from the edge.
Don’t mount a machine to try to prevent a tip-over. If you see that a parked piece of equipment is beginning to tip over, stay clear. Never attempt to get in the cab to right the machine.