Equipment Type

It Doesn't Take Much to Kill

December 20, 2011

Rod Sutton is editorial director of Construction Equipment magazine. He is in charge of editorial strategy and writes a monthly column for the magazine, The Sutton Report. He has more than 30 years in construction journalism, and has been with Construction Equipment since 2001.

Every organization involved in construction has a focus on safety; any that doesn’t is either ignorant or foolishly risking all for short-term benefits. Although a cliche, the phrase “there are no shortcuts in safety” rings true in construction. Safety around construction equipment requires an even sharper focus.

From the bottom of the tracks or tires to the top of the cab or boom, big iron presents plenty of opportunity for someone to be injured or killed. Heating a lug nut with a torch expands the air inside a tire so rapidly that even before realizing it, a technician can transform that tire into a lethal projectile, putting not only himself in harm’s way but also anyone within striking distance. Simply checking for a hydraulic leak can result in losing a limb, or a life.

We’ve heard asset managers talk about the fall hazards of boom repair, to the point of considering aerial work platforms to keep technicians off the machine so they don’t risk a slip and consequent fall. It doesn’t take  much height to kill.

Then there are in-the-field dangers. Who hasn’t heard horror stories of a machine striking an unseen co-worker on the ground? Even with the amount of information published about the hazards of couplers, we still hear of attachments coming loose and subsequently falling on top of a worker in a trench. Again, it doesn’t take much height to kill.

Shop safety falls directly under the purview of the asset manager; field maintenance safety should. Operational safety is the responsibility of several people and should, in fact, be borne by all supervisors overseeing projects on which machines work. Every employee must be aware of the dangers that exist when a piece of construction equipment is on site. And every supervisor must ensure that happens.

We wonder how many organizations overlook the knowledge within their own equipment department. Whether in the shop, on the field service trucks, or in the trenches, few understand equipment safety as thoroughly as the men and women who manage and maintain those fleets.

Equipment safety is another area in which organizational communication must improve and the expertise of the equipment manager must be acknowledged and used.

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