Safety watch: Skid steer operation

Updated Jul 4, 2018

JcbKeep constant tabs on your surroundings, and never bypass safety features. 

By Olivia Grider

The accident: A landscape worker operating a skid steer is backing away from a gravel pile with a load of gravel in the bucket when a dip in the terrain causes the machine to rock backward. He simultaneously moves his leg forward to brace himself and lowers the bucket to stabilize the loader. His foot, now protruding from the operator’s compartment, is caught between the bucket and cab, and his leg is nearly severed just above the ankle.

The bottom line: This accident could have been prevented if the worker had followed three main rules for safely operating a skid steer, per the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ Skid Steer Safety Manual:

1.  Inspect the travel surface. Look for holes, drop-offs, obstacles, soft soil, deep mud, standing water or anything that could cause the loader to become unstable.

2.  Keep your body inside the cab while operating the loader. Never extend your arms, feet or legs beyond the operator’s compartment.

3.  Carry the load as low as possible for maximum stability and visibility.

Being unaware of surroundings is one of the most common mistakes skid steer operators make. Because views to the left, right and rear are restricted from these machines, this is especially dangerous. Always look in the direction of travel, and drive forward whenever possible. Never become so comfortable with your environment that you forget to be on constant lookout for people and obstacles in your path.

Bypassing safety features also is a common contributor to skid-steer-related accidents. Of 100 accidents federal OSHA recorded in its Integrated Management Information System from 1997 to 2007, deliberately bypassing safety features was the direct cause of 20 percent. All but one of these accidents was fatal.


• Keep your seat belt/operator restraint secured.

• Operate controls only when you are properly seated.

• Never lift or swing a load over anyone.

• Don’t use the bucket, forks or other attachments for a work platform or personnel carrier.

• Never leave the operator’s seat without lowering the bucket or other attachment flat on the ground, stopping the engine and removing the ignition key.

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