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Best Practices for Training Construction Equipment Operators

By Leppo Rents
August 1, 2023

Construction equipment operators are in high demand. However, this equipment requires more than just being able to turn the steering wheel and push a few buttons. 

Skilled operators can use various construction equipment such as excavators, loaders, boom lifts,  rough terrain forklifts, etc. With these machines, operators can complete tasks that involve moving earth, demolition, and lifting. While there are licenses for heavy equipment, and Leppo offers training classes for many of them, most construction companies and contractors should provide additional training and best practices to maintain the safest jobsite possible. 

If you’re a construction company actively recruiting construction equipment operators, here is a guide to the best practices for training.  

Include Equipment Inspection Training

Before operating the machine, it’s extremely important to ensure everything is working. New operators need to know how to inspect their equipment before using it. If a critical part fails while the machines are in use, it could create unsafe working conditions.  

Operators should inspect its machines' brakes, fluid levels, tires, headlights, and so forth on a regular basis. They should know what measures indicate a machine is in working order, and what the signs are that a machine needs maintenance. In addition, you should always schedule routine maintenance to extend the lifespan of your machinery, which will help you make the most of your investment.  

Add PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Training

OSHA requires everyone working on a construction site to wear the appropriate PPE. Basic PPE includes protective eyewear, ear protection, hard hats, gloves, and boots. Operators need to be at the forefront of site safety and should be trained in wearing PPE and how to ensure other workers are using safety equipment. 

Equipment operators can protect their heads from falling objects by wearing hard hats. Furthermore, protective eyewear allows operators to see what they’re doing even when something such as dirt is obstructing their view. Since heavy equipment is typically very loud, ear protection like safety earmuffs or ear plugs will also help prevent hearing loss and exposure to loud machinery.  

Review the Three Points of Contact Rule

When climbing up or down equipment, always maintain three points of contact and face the machine. This involves maintaining contact with one or two hands and two feet. If an operator isn’t trained in properly climbing equipment, then they are at risk of an injury. 

Before lifting a leg to climb in or out of a vehicle, firmly hold on to the equipment with both hands and ensure both feet are firmly planted on the ground before leaving. Maintaining three points of contact ensures you have a firm grip on the equipment, thus preventing injury.  

Standardize and Review Equipment Best Practices

Excavators are designed to dig, and bulldozers are used to move dirt. Every piece of equipment was built to perform a specific job. For this reason, choose the right equipment for the task and operate it how it was made to be operated. Provide operators with best practices for how the equipment on your jobsite should be used. In addition to best practices, keep a running list of activities that can’t be done by equipment. It’s easy to fall into bad habits by speeding up the job when equipment is not used as intended.  

Also, be careful not to overwork the equipment. If you discover a piece of machinery isn’t big or powerful enough for a specific task, consider choosing more suitable equipment. Also, avoid going at speeds that are too fast for the equipment, especially while on slopes.  

Prepare a Checklist, Starting with the Seat Belt

Anyone with a driver’s license knows one of the first driving rules is always wearing a seat belt. This is because seat belts save lives. In the hustle of construction, it’s easy to forget to use a safety belt, and that can put a worker at risk. During training, provide employees with a quick mental checklist that includes checking the seat belt before starting a machine. 

If you are involved in a crash on the jobsite or if the equipment you are on were to tip over, a seat belt will keep you alive. A seat belt will prevent you from getting thrown around, injured, or flung from a cab. More importantly, wearing a seat belt is required by law and will prevent you from being penalized.  

Inspect the Jobsite

As another item on the mental checklist, make sure to check the jobsite before starting a machine. Be sure to check your surroundings and be clear of any hazards on the jobsite such as power lines, pot holes, other equipment, etc. This is best done before operating the machine and getting to work.  

Also, make sure to notify nearby workers before beginning the task. When moving or operating equipment near others, use a lookout, radio, or hand signals for communication. This will help you to beware of anything happening in blind spots.  

Assign a Lookout

Yet another item for the construction equipment checklist is using a lookout for the jobsite. Accidents happen, but most can be prevented. One way to minimize risk is to assign a lookout. A lookout should be included in any construction equipment training. 

A lookout is a person that can help you identify blind spots and other hazards on the jobsite. This person will help ensure that no other passengers or equipment impede your line of site. They will also help you relay any communication to other team members.  

Managing Your Blind Spots

While a lookout is important for identifying blind spots when operating equipment, the operator should also be trained in how to manage blind spots on their own. Blind spots can be found on any jobsite, thus putting everyone in a work area at risk. For this reason, equipment operators and others working on the jobsite need to be alert to all possible blind spots. 

To recognize any blind spots and avoid possible dangers, take time to measure all blind spots before using equipment and machinery on the site.  

Identify and Implement Communication Tools

Every construction team and jobsite are slightly different, and they will develop their own shorthand and communication methods. But it’s also important to standardize and implement good communication methods. For example, have a signal for stopping operation, or hand signals for when a jobsite is loud. 

Good communication on the jobsite will ensure you operate your heavy machinery safely, with no delays due to accidents or safety protocol breaches. However, maintaining good communication can be difficult with noisy equipment around. For this reason, it's vital to use good hand signals. Ensure all machine operators are up to date on hand signals such as stop, boom, and travel.  

Leppo Rents Training Programs

Leppo Rents offers comprehensive and informative training programs on aerial work platforms, industrial forklifts, skid steer loaders, telehandlers, hydro mobile training and more.  

Our OSHA-compliant training includes a certification, jobsite safety and planning, operator responsibilities, orientation to the equipment, equipment use, operating techniques and personalized student assessments.  

 Contact us now to speak to a training team member for more information.  

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