How to ... Safely operate a backhoe loader

Planning ahead is the key to safety when operating a backhoe loader

COMMENT, PMV, Backhoe loader

Because of its versatility, the backhoe loader is an invaluable tool on any jobsite. As with any piece of construction machinery, however, if operators fail to comply with best practice, there is potential for things to go wrong.

Of course, it is important to complete jobs in as short a time as possible, but in doing so, it is vital not to compromise the safety of you and those around you. In the following guide, PMV provides some tips on how to operate your backhoe loader in a manner that is both safe and effective.

Tip 1 – Buckle up
The first thing you should do upon entering your backhoe loader is fasten your seat belt. This is one of the simplest and most important precautions that you can take. A machine’s roll cage will protect you in the event of an overturn, but only if you are secure in the cab.

Tip 2 – Check your equipment
Check the machine before you begin. Taking a few minutes at the beginning of a day to ensure that the booms, bucket, backhoe attachment and wheels are functioning correctly could save you a lot of trouble in the longer term.

Tip 3 – Plan ahead
You should always be thinking about what you are about to do before you do it. Take time to calculate the safest course of action and don’t compromise on your decision. Ultimately, it is you – the operator – who is responsible for the actions of the backhoe loader. Getting a job done as quickly as possible is important, but it is not as important as your safety and that of others on the jobsite.

Tip 4 – Avoid cave-ins
Avoid cave-ins by knowing where to place your spoil pile. When digging, be sure to place the excavated material at least three feet away from the trench. If you are operating on loose soil, or if your excavation is especially deep, spoil piles should be placed farther away. Moreover, when excavating on an angled surface, it is wise to situate your pile on the upper side of the trench. The backhoe loader will be more stable when swinging uphill, and backfilling will be easier.

Tip 5 – Know your weight distribution
The majority of a backhoe loader’s weight is distributed towards the rear of the machine. With this in mind, keeping your bucket low when moving will aid stability. Whenever possible, try to reverse the machine up sloped surfaces instead of driving forwards. This will help to keep the front end of the unit on the ground. It is also best to avoid turning whilst on a slope. This will ensure that the backhoe loader doesn’t become unstable and roll over.

Tip 6 – Shut down in the right way
Safety doesn’t become any less important once you have finished your work. It is vital that you shut down your backhoe loader correctly. Park on a level surface and place the machine in neutral gear. Apply the parking brake and lower the front and rear attachments to the ground. After engine shutdown, move the hydraulic levers to release any leftover pressure. In addition to aiding safety, shutting down your machine in the proper manner will ensure that it is ready when you next need to use it.

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