Heavy equipment is a necessity on nearly every construction project. However, they can be extremely dangerous when not used properly. One mistake made while operating a heavy equipment can lead to a chain of reactions both to the site and the workers. Heavy equipment rolling over, falling from a high place or having workers caught in or between equipment are some of the common ways through which workers get injured when working on or near them.
One of the most recent cases of construction site accidents in Nairobi’s Kilimani area was as a result of a heavy equipment that is, a tower crane that collapsed, leaving at least 9 workers dead.
While construction sites can be a great place to work, the speed in which events happen combined with the number of possible safety hazards should make heavy equipment construction safety a top priority.
The fundamental questions then remain, “Just how safe are our construction sites while using heavy equipment? What safety measures should a contractor put in place to avert accidents caused by heavy equipment?
Here are a few safety tips that can be followed to ensure a safe, productive and accident- free site while using heavy equipment:
1. Train Equipment Operators: Workers should be trained on how to safely operate not some but all pieces of the equipment they will be working on. This needs to be a combination of both theory and practical/ hands-on instruction. In addition, they should also be trained on general safety, that is, how to identify hazards, how to safely mount and dismount the equipment, how to lift loads and the load capacity, the safety features of the equipment and how to maneuver the heavy equipment. Most importantly, only trained workers should be allowed to operate the equipment they have been trained to work on.
2. Know Your Surroundings: Heavy equipment operators should know their surrounding well so as to pre-empt any obstacles or hazards and avoid them. For example, when digging, the operator should ensure that all underground utilities such as sewer lines, water pipes, have been identified and clearly marked to avoid damage. Additionally, the operators should be aware of the space within which they are operating so that they do not hit other workers, bystanders or any other thing in the vicinity.
3. Mounting and Dismount Equipment Correctly: While this may sound like an obvious thing, the number of injuries faced by workers as a result speak otherwise. It is important for the operator to climb onto the equipment in a certain way and get down in a certain way. “Simple things” such as not entering or jumping off a moving equipment should never be ignored. The equipment should also be shut off completely when not in use.
4. Inspect Equipment Before Use: An Operator must inspect the heavy equipment before each use to ensure that it is good condition. Never use any equipment that is not working properly or appears damaged because it could potentially become a major safety issue if not dealt with.
5. Use Each Equipment for its Purpose: Always use each equipment as the manufacturer intended or for the purpose it was designed. For example, cranes should not be used to do the work of excavators. The other thing to avoid is overloading/ overworking the equipment. The operator should ensure that they know the load and lift capacity of the equipment.
6. Keep the Area of Operation Clear: Ideally, you should cordon off the area within which you are operating heavy equipment in order to protect other workers from accidentally getting in close proximity to the operating equipment. In the event you find yourself moving or operating equipment near workers use a spotter (a worker that is trained in hand signals to help provide safety guidance and communication between the operator, workers and nearby pedestrians) to help keep the blind spots clear.
Construction workers operate around heavy equipment every day, and they can easily get used to the presence of heavy equipment, thus not giving much thought to the potential risks that do exist. Taking some time to understand and follow safety rules in addition to staying alert while on the job can help construction workers stay safe.

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