3 Skid Steer Pitfalls
Skid steers have been popular on worksites across the globe for many years, and for good reason — they are the true workhorse of the construction industry. Many seasoned equipment operators are very comfortable around heavy equipment; unfortunately, these comfort levels can sometimes lead to shortcuts and sidesteps that can be dangerous or even deadly for operators and those working around them. There are many safety precautions to take into consideration when operating a skid steer. Here are three common oversights that should be accounted for.
Pitfall No. 1: Shortcutting Basic Safety Checks
Reading the operator’s manual may seem like a tedious task to a veteran contractor, but it is an important first step because manufacturers make changes every year. At Kubota, we pride ourselves in engineering new features and controls that maximize productivity, and it is imperative that users read the manual to familiarize themselves with the machine. Fact is, if you don’t familiarize yourself with a new machine and its features, accidents are exponentially more likely to occur. There are several basic safety checks that should be conducted prior to starting the engine every single time. For example, the operator should always assess the jobsite, wear personal protective equipment and visually inspect the machine. All preventative maintenance should be conducted prior to use, such as greasing pivot points and checking the oil and coolant levels. The operator must wear a seat belt, lower the lap bars and check all controls to make sure they are in the proper position before starting the machine. Before starting work, the operator should always visually check to verify that everyone is clear of the machine.
Pitfall No. 2: Improper Attachments or Use of Implements
Skid steers are often thought of as a multi-purpose tool due to the various attachments that can be used via the quick-attach plate. Since an operator often changes attachments several times a day, they should always take the time to verify that the attachment is securely locked onto the coupler and that it is the right size attachment for the job. One of the biggest safety concerns is inadvertent movement of the loader arms and attachment and unsafe operation of the controls, particularly if controls are accidentally operated or if hydraulic pressure is suddenly lost. Sometimes operators will try to bypass the safety interlock system to start or operate the machine from outside the cab, which is unsafe and should never be done.
Pitfall No. 3: Not Properly Managing Load Limits
A skid steer’s various attachments and loads can dramatically change safe operating practices. Operators should know the machine’s capabilities and should operate in a smooth and controlled manner, keeping loads low to the ground and avoiding sudden stops or jerky operation. For example, when using a pallet fork, the rated operating capacity (ROC) will shift because the center of gravity shifts with the front load, and operators need to take a different approach than when using a bucket. If traveling on rough terrain, operators should take it slow and avoid steep slopes or unstable surfaces. If working on a slope is necessary, travel should be straight up or down. Whether or not you have a load on the front of the machine will determine which direction the machine should face during travel. For example, if there is a load on the front of the machine, the front should face uphill; if there is no load on the front of the machine, it should face downhill.
Tim Boulds is a Kubota CE product operations manager, based in Torrance, Calif.