Many modern construction jobs could not exist without the assistance of flatbeds, pickups, off-highway dump trucks, loaders, scrapers, and bulldozers. Needless to say that work sites today are swarming with such heavy equipment. Although crucial to the work being done, this equipment can easily transition from an asset to a danger if it is not properly and regularly maintained and inspected.
What Does OSHA Say? Sadly, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rules aren’t very comprehensive and can often be vague when it comes to guidelines and checklists on inspecting heavy equipment properly. There are, however, some general guidelines that you should follow:
- Materials and equipment should be inspected by a competent employee on a daily basis, or more frequently if needed.
- OSHA doesn’t have any specific requirements for mechanized equipment and motor vehicles, with the exception of when they’re being transported or used near power lines. That said, OSHA does state that any equipment that will be left unattended at dark should have reflectors, lights, or barricades so that the location of the machinery can be identified easily.
- Off-highway motor vehicles must be inspected at the start of each shift, which should include ensuring all the essential equipment and parts are free of obvious damage that could potentially cause a malfunction or failure and are otherwise in a safe operating condition. The trailer brake connections, emergency stopping system, and hand brake components of the service brakes must be checked. The tires, horn, seat belts, steering mechanism, coupling devices, operating controls, and safety devices must also be checked. Should job site conditions require the use of the defroster, windshield wipers, lights, reflectors, and/or fire extinguishers, these too must be checked. All damaged parts must be repaired properly before the vehicle can be used on the job site, even when the damage is seemingly minor.
- OSHA doesn’t have inspection checklists for earthmoving equipment, such as loaders, scrapers, wheel tractors, crawlers, tractors, bulldozers, off-highway trucks, graders, and so forth, but does state that seat belts must be provided.
- Employers should designate a competent person, meaning someone who has been trained properly in inspection guidelines, to inspect all heavy equipment on a frequent and regular basis. Note that the word “frequently” generally means “daily” in OSHA language.
Drafting Your Own Inspection Checklists. Since OSHA guidelines are so vague on the proper inspection of heavy equipment, safety experts commonly recommend that employers refer to the manufacturer’s manual for each individual piece of machinery being used on their job site and draw up their own inspection checklists using a combination of this information and that from OSHA.
However, heavy equipment manuals rarely include a detailed, comprehensive checklist. For equipment that doesn’t include one, and many likely won’t, you can use the machine’s maintenance procedures and operating instructions as a guide to create your own comprehensive checklist.
You might want to use the equipment’s OSHA inspection guidelines and the maintenance and operating information that you get from the equipment’s manual to develop several different checklists – one for site safety, one for systems, and one of safety equipment.
Once developed and ready for implementation, make sure that you explain thoroughly each of the checklists to your employees. Any employee that operates heavy equipment should be trained on the checklists and the importance of their completion each day before work ever begins.
It might take a little effort on your part, but having comprehensive, easily understood inspection checklists on every piece of heavy machinery on your work site is vital if you want to keep your business operations running smoothly and your workers safe. Don’t forget that having these checklists in place will essentially be pointless if your employees aren’t trained on how to use them properly.