Oregon OSHA

Construction Depotonline

Fall 2007
Safety & Health News for the Oregon Construction Industry

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Excavating: Working with hydraulic excavators and backhoe loaders

You can dig an excavation with a hand shovel or a machine. Use a hand shovel improperly and you risk blisters. Use a machine improperly and you risk a life. Too many workers are injured or killed because they are not properly trained or supervised and don’t follow safe practices when they use mechanical equipment for excavation work. Most accidents happen for three reasons.

1: Entering the excavator’s swing area

Workers need to be aware of the excavator’s swing area and blind spots. Always maintain at least 3 feet of unimpaired clearance between the excavator’s rotating superstructure and adjacent objects. Keep workers outside the area by marking it with rope, tape, or a similar barrier if necessary.

2: Using quick-coupling devices improperly

After-market “quick-coupling” devices make it easy for workers to quickly change buckets or replace other attachments. However, a number of workers have been killed when the coupling devices have not been locked properly and the buckets have detached. Manufacturers of quick couplers recognized the hazard and newer devices have locks that prevent buckets from detaching unintentionally, but not all users may be aware of the problem. Retrofit locking pins are available for older equipment.

3: Using unsafe rigging methods to drag a trench shield

Using an excavator to drag a shield through a trench can put tremendous forces on rigging components. For example, the force required to drag a 10,000-pound trench shield through a narrow trench will increase dramatically with resistance from the trench walls or from plowing of the front of the shield. Know the sling’s rated capacities and never exceed them. The whiplash effect of a broken or improperly rigged sling can kill anyone in its path.

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