Compact Excavators

Sw Photo UsedBe alert to ground conditions and your surroundings.

By Olivia Grider

The accident: A 39-year-old company owner is grading a slope next to a home using a compact excavator. The machine is facing uphill when it rolls back, ejecting the operator – who isn’t wearing a seat belt – and pinning him between the excavator and house. His assistant calls for help, and freeing the man takes firefighters 12 minutes. His torso is crushed and is pronounced dead at the hospital.

The bottom line: If you are operating a compact excavator on a slope and it begins to roll, tip or slide, you should stay inside the machine with the seat belt fastened and immediately lower the attachment, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ Compact Excavator Safety Manual. Hold on firmly, brace your feet on the floor and lean away from the point of contact.

To reduce risks of this situation occurring, travel straight up and down slopes with the attachment low and close to the machine. Avoid slippery ground conditions, and don’t work with the tracks across a slope as this will increase chances the machine will slide. Swing to the uphill side to dump the load.

Randy Mansell, risk control consultant for CNA Insurance, says roll-overs, struck-by and caught-between accidents are among the most common involving compact excavators. To help prevent them:

• Avoid steep slopes and unstable surfaces.

• Do not travel over obstacles such as logs, tree stumps, ditches or curbs.

• Keep a 360-degree sense of where people and objects are located, and be aware of blind spots.

• Ensure the machine has sufficient clearance from other machines, material, people and objects.

• Do not lift or swing a load or attachment over anyone.

• Know and use hand signals for particular jobs. Operators should take signals from only one person.

• When working near a compact excavator, do not enter its turning-radius area.

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