Working Around Heavy Equipment


75% of construction related “struck by” and “run over” fatalities involve heavy equipment. Heavy equipment, such as cranes, excavators, skid steers, dump trucks, and pay loaders are an essential part of construction. All ground-based workers should remain outside of the working area of heavy equipment while the machine is in operation. This working area is also known as the “danger zone.” Before working around heavy equipment, you should know the potential hazards and how to avoid them!

Heavy Equipment Danger Zones

Unless it is essential to the task, all personnel should stay away from all sides of heavy equipment while it is in use. Danger zones include (but are not limited to):

  • Blind spots and/or areas of limited visibility
  • Rotating machinery
  • Swing radius
  • Travel path
  • Under suspended or overhead loads
  • Overhead hazards (i.e. overhead utility lines, and overhead piping/cable trays, etc.)
  • Working over or around existing underground facilities
  • Close proximity of moving equipment

Safety Tips

Safely working in the areas of any heavy equipment requires that shared responsibly of both the equipment operator and their coworkers. Unsafe practices by either the operator or those around the equipment can create very dangerous situations. Serious injuries can occur if the equipment strikes a worker, or if the equipment is rolled over. Here are a few common safety rules for operators and ground based workers to consider:

  • Inspection of the equipment prior to operation to ensure that all lights and audile alarms are working properly
  • A defined route and clear visual path for the operator when moving equipment from the point of origin to the work site
  • Heavy equipment must have a rollover protective structure (ROPS)—ROPS is designed to protect the operator if the machine tips over
  • Use 3-point mounting and dismounting technique off of heavy equipment—NEVER JUMP OFF HEAVY EQUIPMENT
  • Establish communication before starting work—hand signals, whistles, radios, air horn, audible alarm, or other means of effective jobsite communication. Operators should always know exactly where all ground based workers are located
  • Maintain a clear line of site between the operator and workers. Blind spots are common. If you can’t see the operator, they can’t see you
  • Use a spotter when heavy equipment is in motion. This requires communication between the operator and workers to maintain safe movement
  • Be aware of the swing radius on certain equipment and, if possible, cordon off the area with barriers or caution tape
  • Prevent unauthorized workers or bystanders from entering a danger zone. When appropriate, install barricades and signs around the danger zone
  • NO RIDERS! Only equipment that is designed to carry multiple persons shall have more than one occupant!
  • Wear high visibility clothing and Personal Protective Equipment
  • Never work under a suspended or overhead load
  • Watch for shifting or unstable loads and working surfaces
  • The use of cell phones is prohibited except for job-related or emergency situations
  • Always stay alert

Many times, when workers think the can be seen by the operators of heavy equipment they can’t. You may be in a blind spot or the operator has been driving in a designated travel path for a period of time and the only thing that has changed is you!!!!! May eye contact with operators!