Safely Using Loaders

Operating a loader, or any other type of machine can be a dangerous activity if certain guidelines are not followed. A good understanding of working environments and machine capabilities is critical for safe operation.

Listed below are guidelines to follow before, during and after operating a loader (N.B. not all inclusive; always refer to operation and maintenance manual for complete instructions).

Before operating the loader:

  • Obtain a pre-shift checklist if available and complete it accurately. It is important to always record the results of inspections.
  • Review the operation and maintenance manual before operating; know the safety precautions.
  • Inspect the condition of the tires or track shoes for excessive wear, cracks and bulges.
  • Verify all fluids are at the right levels.
  • Inspect the condition of the bucket, nuts, bolts and other wear items for cracks or damage.
  • Verify that there are no rocks, debris or other material that could fall back into the cab.
  • Always wear the proper personal protective equipment for the job. Some applicable forms of PPE include; leather gloves, protective helmets, eye and ear protection and steel toe boots (make sure work boots have good tread).
  • Use caution accessing and exiting the cab of the machine; maintain three points of contact at all times.
  • Verify all gauges are working properly and the inside of the cab is ready for safe use.

Operating the loader:

  • Always wear a seat belt and honk horn before moving the loader.
  • In cold conditions, start the engine and let it run at idle speed for 15 minutes before operating; exercise the bucket up and down a few times to warm the hydraulic oil.
  • Never exceed speed limits and do not make sharp turns or aggressive moves.
  • Never operate on an incline with the load in the raised position (doing so could results in tipping the load or loader).
  • Do not exceed the rated loads for the equipment; always attempt to center the load to the bucket when loading and unloading.
  • Always be aware of surroundings – Use a spotter and know where pedestrians, objects, overhangs, fall hazards, uneven conditions and other vehicles are at all times.

After operating the loader:

  • Let the loader run at idle speed for 5 minutes before completely shutting down.
  • Lower the bucket to ground to avoid stress on hydraulic systems.
  • Clean the loader off with high pressure water before any mud or debris hardens.
  • Inspect and verify the same items before you operated the loader (see above).
  • Shut off the engine before refueling.

Working Together for Better Safety

President of Saiosh, Robin Jones, asks where we should start to improve occupational health and safety (OHS):

“Years ago, I read a book on firefighting in the United States (US), which focused on injuries to firefighters. The book made three broad statements:

  • Each year, more firefighters in the US are killed in firefighting activities, than policemen.
  • Every single hazard, to which firefighters can be exposed, has already been identified.
  •  If the hazards are already known, why do firefighters keep getting killed?

The answer given in the book is that: “there are always NEW firefighters”.

Over the last 12 months or so, I have been privileged to listen to a number of exceptional speakers telling us about the many ways to get results in terms of reducing injuries to employees. I have heard about some companies that have achieved spectacular and sustained decreases in their injury rates.

Sadly, in spite of all these activities and achievements, across all industries we still continue to injure employees and, in some cases, lose workers through fatalities. Some industries, unfortunately, show a higher rate than others.

SAIOSH President Robin Jones
SAIOSH President Robin Jones

My observation

The prevention of accidents and injuries could have started as far back as 1941 when the Factories, Machinery and Building Work Act was introduced. Credit must first be given to the mining industry, though, which had legislation introduced in (as far as I’m aware) 1910.

Again: If all the requirements for a safe workplace and safe working conditions are known, why are we still injuring and killing employees?

I could borrow the American firefighters theory, that there are always new employees, but, instead, I want to repeat an anecdote that colleagues have often heard me quote:

Have you ever seen a safety officer with bruises on his/her forehead? The bruising comes when the OHS practitioner runs into a brick wall known as management.

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to work with dedicated management, who were committed to the principle of OHS being a partner in the running of the business, and did not like short cuts. I had management who listened, set the example and “walked the talk”…

How can this dilemma be solved?

I would suggest a threefold approach for all management:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the OHS practitioners. In addition, look around and learn from your peers. Find out how successful companies get results with injury reductions.

2. Our current legislation, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, is a world-class tool for assisting management to control the workplace and reduce accidents and injuries. The Department of Labour is currently reviewing the Act to improve it even further. Learn to use it rather than reject it.

3. Make safety (the freedom from harm) just as much a part of the business as any other process.

This isn’t the only solution

The great thing about OHS practitioners is that they are resilient. In addition, they have a common motto: “safety is for sharing”. Members must respond to articles and voice their impressions and suggestions. Whether comments are favourable or unfavourable, the sole purpose is to learn how to get an accident-free environment.”

– Saiosh President Robin W Jones

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A widely recognised animal with an average length of 4.5m, but specimens of over 6m are not uncommon.  The Nile crocodile is widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, occurring mostly in the central, eastern, southern and some western parts of the continent. Inhabits many different types of aquatic environments such as estuaries, lakes, rivers and marshlands.


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