According to a 2004 publication by the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, there are more than 100 fatalities in the workplace each year due to accidents caused by heavy equipment. As an employer, you are responsible for maintaining the wellness and safety of your work crew, so it is well worth the effort to familiarize yourself with OSHA’s heavy equipment regulations to ensure maximum job safety.
Operating Heavy Equipment
OSHA regulates equipment by determining who can, and cannot, operate heavy machinery or tools. Employees are prohibited from operating heavy equipment unless they have the proper training and are given the green light from their supervisors to do so. OSHA’s regulation goes so far as to say that employees who are not granted permission to operate heavy equipment are prohibited from even pressing the equipment’s start button. The reasoning for this is that due to the dangerous nature of heavy equipment, like concrete mixers, masonry saws and bulldozers, ensuring the proper protection of employees can reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities. OSHA mandates equipment to be labeled with caution tags that say things like “do not start,” so that employees are warned of potential safety hazards.
Storing Heavy Equipment
There are proper ways to store heavy equipment, after workers are done using it for the day. According to OSHA, equipment and tools can still pose safety hazards even in the “off” position, so they must be safeguarded when they are not in use. Safeguarding equipment means protecting the dangerous points, such as covering the blades on masonry saws. Heavy mobile equipment must be stored with breaks in the locked position, and other types of equipment – like concrete buckets – must have safety latches that can prevent the equipment from spilling or dumping accidentally.
OSHA requires heavy equipment to be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that everything is in good condition and ready to be used. When employers do not perform safety inspections on their heavy equipment, they are taking huge risks by letting employees operate the machinery, or even be near the machine. Things like loose brakes and torn belts might not be visually observed, so an employee could begin to operate the machine without any knowledge of its defect and get injured in the process. As such, it is critical that employers inspect heavy equipment before allowing their crews to work with them.
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Kyra Sheahan has been a writer for various publications since 2008. Her work has been featured in "The Desert Leaf" and "Kentucky Doc Magazine," covering health and wellness, environmental conservatism and DIY crafts. Sheahan holds an M.B.A. with an emphasis in finance.