Staying Safe on the Job: Safety on Excavation Projects

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Excavation work is an integral part of many construction projects, including the creation of building foundations, reservoirs and roads. But excavating can be inherently risky, as changes in surface grade and material stability combines with the weight of heavy construction equipment used to get the job done.

That’s why it’s critical that all excavation work is given careful attention to manage additional risks and understand fully the weight loads and stability of the soil. Whether digging the new foundation of a building, repairing or placing new underground utilities, or working on road building projects, mining jobs or forestry work, staying safe and working smart relies on both operator and equipment.

Safety for Trenching Work

Trenching work is generally done with utility projects, but is not uncommon in foundation construction or some road building work. As Safety & Health Magazine notes, when operating an excavator in a trench-digging setting, it’s important for operators to be using one of three primary protective systems designed to prevent injuries or collapses when digging – sloping, shoring or shielding. These approaches offer additional stability in the excavated area, and should be determined by a registered professional engineer as the best system will depend upon a number of factors, including climate, soil type, depth of the dig and much more.

It’s also important to be mindful of machinery placement when working. Any heavy equipment should be kept away from the edge of the trench, and moved soil should be placed at least 2 feet from the trench so as to not add any extra stress to the area. Digging should also be done with the excavator positioned perpendicular to the trench, with excavator soil used to fill in front of the machine to keep it always working from a level position. These and other guidelines should all be considered by an OSHA-designated “competent person” who takes responsibility to inspect conditions and implement the hazard mitigation plan. Not only can it save your equipment from damage, but it can save lives.

Getting Around the Job

Whether trenching or excavating, one of the biggest equipment and safety risks comes in actually moving around the job site. Whenever moving your SANY excavator, you should aim to keep the bucket and plow attachments raised to prevent accidental contact with the ground, especially if traveling over uneven terrain. Keeping the bucket low makes it easy to see and helps maintain a lower center of gravity, improving stability of the excavator.

It’s also important to be mindful of the surroundings. This may include wastes or materials staged for other parts of the project, narrow conditions such as fences or buildings that limit a full range of motion, or other work vehicles or employees who may be handling other jobs on site. Move slowly and cautiously to prevent harm to machine or man.

SANY ExcavatorsStay on the Level

Working on excavation projects on inclined or sloped surfaces presents a challenge for operators, but there are ways to make the work more accessible. For example, if your job is on a sloped surface, you can make a bench cut in the slope above and place that material below the excavator to create a flat working area on the incline. This will allow you to operate from a flat, level surface, creating more stability while working and reducing the risk of tipping over or slipping on loose, inclined soil.

In addition, creating this working shelf on the slope may also help with removal of materials. From a raised location, the excavator has a superior ability to dig and dump dug out material into a hauler or dump truck positioned at a lower elevation. It’s important to be mindful, however, of the positioning of both vehicles. The excavator will need enough clearance upslope to allow it to completely swing to reach the truck, while the hauler requires sufficient space to get within reach of the excavator’s boom and arm. Operators should also pay attention to load weight limits and never swing a loaded bucket over the cab area of the load vehicle to avoid damage or injury.

Cleaning Keeps You in the Clear

Another tip when working on excavation jobs is to make sure that you keep both the bucket and the treads clear of dirt and mud. Excess buildup of mud in the bucket can limit how much you can move and lead to less effective operations. This is particularly problematic when working with more adhesive materials, such as clay-rich soils or damp, muddy earth. In some cases, using a silicone spray or wax application inside the bucket can help prevent sticking, but make sure that you’re aware of any impact these or other applications may have on the environment.

It’s also important to clear away any dirt or mud that builds up on the undercarriage or on the treads. Accumulating dirt can put excess wear on the various components that drive the excavator, leading to premature failure and expensive ahead-of-schedule replacements – not to mention downtime while you make repairs. Use a shovel or pressure washer to clear away any build up – ideally at the end of each working day – to keep dirt at bay.

Keep Up with the Upkeep

Finally, it’s important to make sure that you maintain your SANY excavator to ensure not only that it’s always performing at peak efficiency and performance, but also safely. It starts with regular visual inspections. Whenever beginning work for the day, spend a few minutes first walking around the excavator and looking at hoses, connections and the undercarriage for any signs of worn components or issues that may not be obvious while working in the cab. Also check the levels of critical fluids like coolant and oil and look for any slow leaks that may be more apparent after sitting overnight.

Your excavator also has preventative maintenance requirements that should be completed at regular operating intervals. This may include changing air or fuel filters, fluids or other parts. It’s also important to check greased points and break out the grease gun to refill lubricant levels routinely. You should also make a point of checking the track for damaged shoes, loose bolts or other issues that could cause abnormal movement or failures. Finally, consult your operating manual for maintenance needs at set hour intervals, such as gearbox oil changes or testing hydraulic or coolant fluid to determine if a change is needed.

Think Safe, Work Safe, Stay Safe

Taking time to consider your working conditions and your equipment when working on an excavation project can help you work efficiently and safely, keeping your machinery in good condition and your work crews out of harm’s way. Make sure to plan your approach to all work to prevent safety issues, and keep up with your maintenance and repair needs to keep your excavator working at its best. Your local SANY dealer can help with service and support, whether for emergency needs, warranty work or regular scheduled maintenance. Find a dealer location near you today to get help you need to keep your SANY where you need it – in the field, working for you.