Backhoe safety, like safety while operating any other piece of construction equipment, should be the combined effort of both a company and its employees in order to be effective. The US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) has policies regarding the workplace practice of backhoe safety, along with safe practices for many other types of equipment.
One of the primary issues surrounding effective backhoe safety is training. Equipment operators are specially trained to operate heavy equipment, and their employers should require annual OSHA safety training. A company that allows untrained workers to operate a backhoe or any other piece of heavy machinery without the proper training can be fined. Every company that utilizes heavy equipment should take the precaution to allow only trained operators to use their equipment.
Standard backhoe safety practices should be implemented every time the equipment is used. Operators should perform an equipment check prior to use to ensure that all lights and signals, tires, connections, and guards are in proper working order and that no part of the equipment is loose or malfunctioning. Backhoe safety also requires malfunctioning or damaged pieces of equipment to be repaired before use.
Backhoe safety while operating should always include a thorough check of workplace surroundings and a check on all workers and obstructions in the vicinity. Workers on the ground in the vicinity of operational equipment should wear flagging garments and the proper safety gear. Operating a backhoe at the proper reduced speed when turning or working in slick conditions is a must. Rollovers are one of the leading causes of backhoe injuries and fatalities. Operators should also be aware of all buried and overhead power and gas lines as part of the backhoe safety regimen, as electrocution is another common cause of equipment fatality.
No employer should require a worker to operate a backhoe without having successfully completed a backhoe safety training class. If you find yourself working under conditions that require you to operate or work near someone who is operating a backhoe or other heavy equipment without proper training, notify your local OSHA office.