Featured Image Caption: Operating the Excavator
There comes a time at every construction site when an excavator is required, and it’s not always on flat ground.
While excavators are extremely useful tools and efficient at getting the trenches or holes dug in little to no time, they are still heavy machines, and when they are used on a slope, extreme caution must be exercised to ensure the safety of the operator and everyone else on the job site.
With the ability to ascend steep slopes with ease, they can be used for a wide variety of different tasks. Making sure that they are properly fitted with the right tracks, or other accessories will help to get the job done and to keep all workers safe.
Even the most experienced operator will still need a keen eye for detail to ensure the excavator is being safely used. One bad decision and things can go very wrong. Weather and environmental concerns should be considered when undertaking any project where you will be using heavy machinery.
Step 1 – Properly Position The Excavator
Excavators are large, heavy machines requiring extra space to move and operate effectively. With a large arm and boom that swings when in use, ensuring it is properly grounded, especially when on a slope, will increase safety all around.
When working on slanted ground, ensure that the excavator is as level as possible. Using a surveyor’s laser sight will help achieve this. Keeping your undercarriage in line with the project or target area will also help to keep the machine balanced and on stable footing.
Where space allows, keep the trench as close as possible to the left track. This will help to keep everything straight and enable you to walk around the machine when it is safe to do so.
Make sure to dig in increments. Don’t dig the depth of the trench straight away. This can cause the surrounding earth to collapse suddenly and the excavator to fall, despite other measures to prevent this.
When the boom and arm are in use, remember that they have a large swing circle in which they operate. Take care not to position the equipment too close to any other machines, vehicles, the road or the street where pedestrians can walk by or close to other people working on the site.
Ensure the arm and boom are as close to the cab and main body of the excavator as possible. Having it stretched out too far will affect your ability to swing the arm around and move the soil you have just dug up.
Move the arm and boom closer to the cab before swinging it back out to where it needs to go. This will help the excavator keep balanced while moving the debris.
Also, keep in mind that the arm and boom do have a limited range, so there will be times when you need to reposition the machine. Do this slowly and carefully, with an empty bucket close to the ground to lower the center of gravity.
Step 2 – Be Aware of the Physical Limitations of the Excavator
The standard design and arrangement of the engine will have some limitations on how much of a steep slope the machine can properly operate on.
The industry recommendation is that slopes up to 70% inclines are acceptable.
This is due to the amount of lubricating oil the engine needs to keep the machine running smoothly without damaging it. Slopes greater than a 70% incline may cause this oil to build up in one place or even spill out from the oil pan underneath.
Not only will this affect the operation of the machine, but it can also have a negative environmental impact on the surrounding soils. This will affect not only what can grow and survive but also the ground’s traction.
While some larger pans may facilitate operating on a steeper incline, continuing operation for more than a few minutes is not recommended.
Step 3 – Operating the Excavator
When choosing the right machine for the job, you need to look at what it will be used for and the terrain where it will be used.
Are there accessories that can be added to the machine to make it more stable and suitable for the job required?
Traction will always be the main focus regarding safety, especially when used on slopes. Therefore you want to ensure you have single grouser pads as they provide the best traction when used on slopes.
Some excavators come with dozer blades. These can be used to dig into the ground at the front of the machine, ensuring it is pointing downwards to provide extra stability, for example.
Large buckets and arms can be extended and placed on the ground to help the excavator ascend and then act as extra brakes when the machine is not in use to prevent sliding down the slope if it rains.
When looking at available excavators to rent, talk to the staff to ensure that you have the right machine and accessories for the job.
Excavator Safety and Slopes Go Hand in Hand
While this article only touches on some aspects required when using an excavator, the operator needs to assess each project case by case. If you don’t feel safe, it is ok to say no.
Not all environments will be the same. While it is impossible to anticipate all potential risks and dangers, the main person operating the machine is responsible for taking as many safety precautions as possible.
By Devon Graham
who is a blogger in Toronto. He graduated with honours from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing. Devon Graham is a community manager for small businesses across Canada. He also likes to research various topics related to pets, food, storage solutions and business solutions.