From off-highway dump trucks, pickups and flatbeds to earthmoving equipment like loaders, bulldozers and scrapers, jobsites are constantly swarming with heavy equipment. Most modern construction jobs would simply be impossible without this crucial equipment. However, if not properly inspected on a regular basis, these machines can quickly turn from helpful to downright dangerous. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rules are somewhat vague when it comes to the proper inspection of heavy equipment. That’s why safety experts say your best bet is to refer to the manufacturer’s manual to find inspection criteria for each unique piece of machinery.
Drawing up your own inspection checklists. Unfortunately, heavy equipment manuals often do not include a thorough inspection checklist. If that’s the case, you should create your own checklist, using the operating instructions and maintenance procedures as a guide. You might want to include two or three different checklists: a site safety checklist, a safety equipment checklist and a systems checklist (including oil system, hydraulic system, etc.) As you build these checklists from information provided in the equipment operating manual, you might also want to refer to the general OSHA inspection guidelines that apply to your specific equipment. Once you have these inspection guidelines in place, you’ll want to introduce the checklists to your employees. It’s important to train each heavy equipment operator to walk through the checklist for their equipment on a daily basis—before they crank up and get to work.
Understanding the general OSHA guidelines. Although OSHA does not provide comprehensive inspection guidelines and checklists, the administration does offer some general requirements. Here a few of OSHA’s inspection rules that should be a part of your customized inspection guidelines:
- Frequent (daily) inspections: A competent employee should inspect materials and equipment on a frequent basis. OSHA typically defines “frequent” as daily. Therefore, these checks should be completed daily or even more often if necessary.
- Motor vehicles and mechanized equipment: Although OSHA does not provide any specific requirements for this type of equipment, the administration does point out that all equipment being left unattended at night should have appropriate lights, reflectors or barricades to identify the machinery’s location. Additionally, OSHA provides specific requirements for this equipment if it is being used or transported in the vicinity of power lines. (See OSHA 1926.550(a) (15))
- Off-highway motor vehicles: All motor vehicles that operate within an off-highway jobsite must be inspected at the beginning of each shift. The worker inspecting the vehicle must ensure that all essential parts and equipment are in safe operating condition and free of any apparent damage that could cause equipment problems or failure. The service brakes (including trailer brake connections, emergency stopping system, parking system (hand brake), horn, tires, steering mechanism, seat belts, coupling devices, safety devices and operating controls must all be checked. Additionally, if jobsite conditions require lights, reflectors, windshield wipers, defrosters or fire extinguishers, these parts must be inspected, as well. If any defects are discovered, the damaged part must be repaired before the vehicle is put to use on the jobsite.
- Earthmoving equipment: According to OSHA, earthmoving equipment includes scrapers, loaders, crawlers, wheel tractors, bulldozers, graders, tractors, off-highway trucks and other such equipment. Although the administration does not offer specific inspection checklists for this equipment, OSHA does say that seat belts must be provided on all equipment required to have seat belts as specified by OSHA 1926.602.
- Properly trained employees: Heavy equipment must be inspected frequently and regularly by a competent person who is designated by the employer. OSHA explains that these employees must be properly trained in inspection guidelines to be considered a “competent person.”
If you want to keep your workers safe and your jobsite running smoothly, it’s important to have comprehensive inspection checklists in place for each piece of heavy machinery. It’s also important to train your employees on proper inspection techniques and ensure that they walk through these checklists each and every day. Contact our office today for more information. You can also visit the OSHA Web site at www.osha.gov.