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Health & Safety: skid steer safety

Exercise safety when operating skid steers

August 9, 2019

Employers can help protect their workers by fully training them in skid-steer loader safety before they operate the machine.

In September 2017, a construction worker at a housing development in Alberta was killed by crush injuries while operating a skid-steer machine. Skid-steer loaders are small, compact machines with a heavy bucket design that are easy to maneuver and are particularly useful in construction and agriculture.

However, the very features that make these machines so effective and agile also put workers at risk for injury.

Use the following tips to help prevent accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

Safely exiting the machine
Drivers should never leave the operator’s station of a skid loader when the engine is running, or the lift arms are raised because of the potential to activate one of the vehicle’s controls. A study from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) shows that many operators have been killed or suffered crushing injuries trying to climb out of the cab without observing safe shut down procedures.

Employers can help protect their workers by fully training them in skid-steer loader safety before they operate the machine, as well as by sharing these tips:

  • Make sure that you park the machine on a level surface.
  • Enter and exit the loader safely and only when the bucket is flat on the ground, or when the lift arm supports are in place.
  • Before leaving the operator’s seat, lower the bucket to the ground, set the parking brake, and turn off the engine.
  • Make sure the controls are locked (if so equipped).
  • Remove the ignition key when not in use.
  • Unbuckle the safety belt and raise the safety bar.
  • When getting on or off, face the machine and use the steps on the loader and the grab handles for support.
  • Never jump on or off the machine.
  • Never attempt to mount or dismount a moving machine.
  • Block the wheels if there is a chance the loader will roll.

Safe operating

  • Keep your feet on the pedals when operating the loader.
  • Keep other people away from the work area.
  • Drive with caution and check behind you before backing up.
  • Travel with the bucket or attachments as close to the ground as possible to maintain equipment stability. This gives the operator an unobstructed view.
  • Load the bucket evenly (i.e. weight should not be lopsided) and do not load beyond the limits or rated capacity of the equipment. You can lose stability and steering control.
  • Load, unload, and turn on level ground.
  • Go straight up and down slopes, keeping the heavy end of the loader pointing uphill – back down slopes slowly. Avoid driving forward when going downhill with a loaded bucket.
  • Look out for holes, rocks or obstructions that may cause a rollover or loss of control.
  • If you become confused about the operation of controls from having to perform too many functions at once, remove hands and feet from the controls. All machine functions should stop when pressure on the controls is released.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well being of workers in Canada by providing information, training, education, systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and injury and illness prevention.