When it comes to building roads, clearing land in preparation for construction, or performing a variety of other tasks on a jobsite, the use of highly mobile, powerful, earth-moving equipment, such as bulldozers, backhoes, and front-end loaders can be critical to the success of a project. However, heavy equipment poses risks not only to the operator, but also those who work around this type of equipment. As a result, OSHA regulates heavy equipment at 1926.600 in the construction regulations. Employers are expected to take the steps outlined below to protect their employees and in many cases, the public.
For all equipment left unattended at night when it is adjacent to a highway or construction areas where work is in progress, must have appropriate lights or reflectors, or barricades equipped with appropriate lights or reflectors, to identify the location of the equipment.
A safety tire rack, cage, or equivalent protection must be provided and used when inflating, mounting, or dismounting tires installed on split rims, or rims equipped with locking rings or similar devices.
When being repaired, bulldozer and scraper blades, end-loader buckets, dump bodies, and similar equipment, must be either fully lowered or blocked, and all controls must be in a neutral position, with the motors stopped and brakes set, unless the work being performed requires otherwise.
The use, care, and charging of all batteries must conform to the requirements of Subpart K, Electrical standards.
When heavy machinery, equipment, or parts thereof are suspended or held up into the air by use of slings, hoists, or jacks, they must be substantially blocked or cribbed to prevent falling or shifting before employees are permitted to work under or between them.
Equipment not in use
When not in use, bulldozer and scraper blades, end-loader buckets, dump bodies, and similar equipment, must be either fully lowered or blocked. All controls must be in a neutral position, with the motors stopped and brakes set, unless work being performed requires otherwise.
Whenever the equipment is parked, the parking brake must be set. If parked on an incline, the equipment must also have the wheels chocked.
All cab glass must be safety glass, or equivalent, with no visible distortion affecting the safe operation of equipment.
Use or movement of heavy equipment in the vicinity of power lines or energized transmitters requires the following actions to be taken, except where electrical distribution and transmission lines have been deenergized and visibly grounded at point of work or where insulating barriers — not a part of or an attachment to the equipment or machinery — have been erected to prevent physical contact with the lines:
- For lines rated 50 kV or below, minimum clearance between the lines and any part of the crane or load must be 10 feet;
- For lines rated over 50 kV, minimum clearance between the lines and any part of the crane or load must be 10 feet plus 0.4 inch for each 1 kV over 50 kV, or twice the length of the line insulator, but never less than 10 feet;
- In transit with no load and boom lowered, the equipment clearance must be a minimum of 4 feet for voltages less than 50 kV, and 10 feet for voltages over 50 kV, up to and including 345 kV, and 16 feet for voltages up to and including 750 kV;
- For all operations where it is difficult for the operator to maintain the desired clearance by visual means, a person must be designated to observe clearance of the equipment and give timely warning;
- For use of cage-type boom guards, insulating links, or proximity warning devices, they are allowed on cranes, but such devices must not alter the requirements of any other regulation even if such device is required by law or regulation;
- For any overhead wire, it must be considered to be an energized line unless and until the person owning such line or the electrical utility authorities indicate that it is not an energized line and it has been visibly grounded;
- Prior to work near transmitter towers where an electrical charge can be induced in the equipment or materials being handled, the transmitter must be de-energized or tests must be made to determine if electrical charge is induced on the crane. When necessary, the following precautions must be taken to dissipate induced voltages:
- The equipment must be provided with an electrical ground directly to the upper rotating structure supporting the boom; and
- Ground jumper cables must be attached to materials being handled by boom equipment when electrical charge is induced while working near energized transmitters. Crews must be provided with nonconductive poles having large alligator clips or other similar protection to attach the ground cable to the load.
- Combustible and flammable materials must be removed from the immediate area prior to operations.
Rolling railroad cars
Derail and/or bumper blocks must be provided on spur railroad tracks where a rolling car could contact other cars being worked, enter a building, work or traffic area.
Key engineering controls
Below are OSHA’s general recommendations that are applicable to all heavy equipment:
- All vehicles must have:
- A service brake system, an emergency brake system, and a parking brake system,
- Working headlights, tail lights, and brake lights,
- An audible warning device (horn), and
- Intact windshield with working windshield wipers.
- Vehicles loaded from the top (e.g., dump trucks) must have cab shields or canopies to protect the operator while loading.
- Ensure that vehicles used to transport workers have seats, with operable seat belts, firmly secured and adequate for the number of workers to be carried.
- Equipment should have roll-over protection and protection from falling debris hazards as needed.
- Do not modify the equipment's capacity or safety features without the manufacturer's written approval.
Key work practices
- Ensure that all operators have been trained on the equipment they will use.
- Prior to permitting construction equipment or vehicles onto an access roadway or grade, verify that the roadway or grade is constructed and maintained to safely accommodate the equipment and vehicles
- Where possible, do not allow debris collection work or other operations involving heavy equipment under overhead lines
- Instruct employees to watch for heavy equipment operation, including the swing radius for cranes and other equipment with arms. Each piece of heavy equipment should have a spotter when operating near emergency responders and skilled support workers.
- Check vehicles at the beginning of each shift to ensure that the parts, equipment, and accessories are in safe operating condition. Prior to use, any defective parts or equipment must be repaired or replaced.
- Do not operate a vehicle in reverse with an obstructed rear view unless it has a reverse signal alarm capable of being heard above ambient noise levels or a signal observer indicates that it is safe to move.
- Make sure safety-toed footwear is worn to prevent crushed toes when working around heavy equipment or falling objects.
- Drive equipment or vehicles on grades or roadways that are safely constructed and maintained.
- Make sure that all workers and other personnel are in the clear before using dumping or lifting devices.
- Lower or block bulldozer and scraper blades, end-loader buckets, dump bodies, etc., when not in use, and leave all controls in neutral position.
- Do not exceed a vehicle's rated load or lift capacity.
- Do not carry personnel unless there is a safe place to ride.
- Stay away from heavy equipment when it’s operating — in fact, be alert to the location of all heavy equipment whether in use or not.
- Stay clear of lifted loads and never work under a suspended load.
- Beware of unbalanced loads.
- Confirm and receive acknowledgement from the heavy equipment operator that they are visible.
- Be aware of the swing radius of cranes and backhoes and do not enter that zone.