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Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier
A laborer died after becoming entangled in a portable mortar mixer while he was cleaning the mixer.
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Heavy Equipment Hazards

The use of heavy equipment on a jobsite is vital and necessary to the overall success of the construction project. However, unauthorized or unwise use of heavy equipment can result in personal injury, loss of life, or severe loss to materials needed to complete the project. Today we will discuss some key points to keep in mind when working around heavy equipment.

Poor Repair or Service

Poor repair or service of equipment is a common hazard. Poor repair may include repairing by an unauthorized person. Such repairs or servicing of equipment may jeopardize the safety of operators and others due to mechanical failure of heavy equipment.

A flagger on an asphalt resurfacing job was standing with his back to a reversing truck and was killed when the truck backed over him.
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Obstructed View While Backing

Due to the size of heavy equipment, equipment operators have obstructed view and blind spots while backing. Dirty or broken windows may also block an operator’s view of people or objects posing potential hazards.

Striking People and Collision with Other Equipment

Preventing Powered Haulage Accidents at Surface Mines

Heavy equipment usually operates in close proximity to other heavy equipment and on-foot workers. The path of the equipment within the work space constantly changes. The interactions between the heavy equipment and on-foot workers are not always coordinated.

Caught Between Equipment and Objects

Many incidents have occurred in work areas where on-foot workers are caught between heavy equipment and other fixed objects or crushed between the equipment. This happens more often when the turning radius for the equipment or trucks is not wide enough at the entry and exit points of the work space within the work zone.

Riders Falling Off Equipment or Buckets

Although not permitted, casual riding of the equipment by workers (other than the operators) has been the cause of many construction workplace accidents.

A construction carpenter died when struck by the bucket of a backhoe.
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caught between
A maintenance mechanic died when he was crushed between an overhead gantry crane and a light fixture.
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falling off
A laborer died after he fell from the top of a pile of construction debris that had been loaded into the bed of a trash-style body truck to a paved. driveway 8.5 feet below.
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Overturning of Equipment

A truck driver died after the off-highway truck he was operating rolled 49 feet over an embankment and came to rest on its top in 4 feet of water.

Overturning of equipment can occur when the load on the equipment is more than the capacity of the equipment. Overturning also occurs when one side of the equipment is on unstable or loose ground or on a depressed area.

Driving at Excessive Speeds

Heavy equipment is not designed for excessive speeds. However, if they are not loaded, the operators may have a tendency to drive at higher than normal speeds causing hazards to on-foot workers and others on site.

Unexpected Electrical Shock

Heavy equipment can come in contact with overhead and underground power lines that cause electrical shock or electrocution.

Failure of Lifting Mechanisms/Operational Failures

Such failures can occur in lifting equipment either due to the mechanical failure or lack of proper knowledge of the lifting mechanism.

A propane transport driver died when his loaded cargo tank transport semi-trailer truck rolled backward and over him.

Injuries to Operators Due to Ingress/Egress Difficulties

Poor ergonomic design and improper ingress and egress practices (e.g. jumping out of the cab instead of coming down slowly) can cause injuries to equipment operators.

Runaway Machines

Runaway occurs when the wheels are not blocked upon parking or when operators are not able to control the equipment. Parking along a steep surface without proper blocks on the downgrade side of wheels will most likely cause such a hazard.

Overhead Obstructions

A 28-year-old worker suffered fatal injuries when a tree he was attempting to fell struck the cab of the hydraulic excavator.

Being struck by limbs of trees or other overhead obstructions, and moving equipment can occur when the operators are unaware of the limbs of trees or other fixed overhead objects. Another cause of such hazard can be due to the poor judgment of operators on the horizontal and vertical clearances.

Accident Summary

Tractor without ROPS at scene of overturn.

A man died when the tractor he was operating overturned upside down pinning him underneath. The old tractor had a narrow (tricycle) front axle. It did not have a rollover protective structure (ROPS). A frontend loader was attached to the tractor’s frame but no counter-weights had been installed for ballast. The loader with its bucket full of rocks was raised to nearly hood height. The tractor leaned to the right as the man steered it forward at a slight upward angle on a slope. The position of the heavy load, the absence of ballast, the tractor’s configuration, the dynamics of the tractor-loader combination and its load in transport on the sloping, uneven terrain contributed to the sudden overturn of this tractor. ROPS and use of the seat belt would likely have prevented this man’s death.

Source: Iowa FACE Program


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Unauthorized persons servicing equipment may jeopardize the safety of operators and others due to _____ of heavy equipment.

2. Which of the following is a hazard due to the size of heavy equipment?

3. Which of the following is a hazard which might cause heavy equipment to collide or strike on-foot workers?

4. What is the most likely cause for workers getting caught or crushed between heavy equipment and objects?

5. What can happen if heavy equipment operators are not familiar with their equipment's vertical and horizontal clearances?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.