Another One Bites the DuST

While you might spend the majority of your day tooling around in your bucket-, blade- or backhoe-equipped skid steer, you will eventually need to pop off that construction or destruction tool and slap on a broom attachment for mop-up.

With great OEM attachment companies like Sweepster, SweepEx and CEAttachments specializing in broom attachments and skid steer loader manufacturers such as John Deere, Bobcat and Volvo supplying the market, buyers have a virtual broom buffet of choices. Luckily, it’s not that complicated. There are three main choices in broom technologies today — angle, push and sweeper brooms.

Do you need a broom for all seasons? Then a rotary-powered angle broom would be your tool of choice — versatile enough for clearing all types of debris, including snow and ice in the winter weather. In the size department, 72 and 84 in. are the two most common sizes in regard to angle brooms, which range in price from $5,000 to $8,000, depending on the size and options.

Are you looking for a sweeper that’s a little more sensitive to your work needs? A sweeper or hopper broom that collects debris, rather than blowing it in the air, for more accurate cleanup projects is a great alternative. Sweeper brooms are generally 72 in. long with a 10- to 25-cu ft hopper load capacity and range from $3,500 to $4,500.

Maybe you’re just thinking about price. Then a push broom should be a serious consideration for functionality in an economic package, geared for your basic cleanup applications. You can expect to find push brooms to fall within the $2,500 to $3,500 price range.

Like any attachment, it’s important that you match your implement of choice to the correct size and power of your skid steer or track loader.

“Start by appropriately matching the weight of the broom to the lift capacity of the skid steer loader. Bear in mind that you will need to consider the weight of the material being collected for sweeper-style brooms,” says Sarah Falkavage, sales and marketing specialist for CEAttachments Inc. “Finally, ensure that the hydraulic flow of the skid steer is enough to power the broom attachment. This will be more of a concern on dual motor angle brooms, as most current model skid steers have sufficient hydraulic flow to handle a single motor boom.”

Equally as important as picking the right broom attachment is learning how to sweep like a pro. Bring the tips below into your skid steer operations and your crews will clean with cunning and accuracy.

Sweep for Speed and Elevation

Once the construction site dust settles, someone has to clean it up. Luckily, you’ve done the leg work and chosen the perfect sweeper attachment for the job. Yet, operation isn’t as simple as slapping on the attachment and sending your bristles a spinning. It is important that you follow proper operation procedures to get the most productivity and longevity out of your broom.

“Machine ground speed is critical in broom operation. Moving too fast creates a poor sweep for both angle and [sweeper] brooms,” says Jim Koch, product manager for Sweepster Attachments LLC, part of the Light Construction Division of Paladin Brands, a Dover Co. “The angle broom will leave material behind because the brush is not turning fast enough to remove the debris. A [sweeper] broom will not pick up the material, piling the material in front of the brush and leaving a trail of debris. Moving slowly does not have a detrimental effect on sweeping performance, but does lengthen the duration of the sweeping job.”

Let’s face it, no one wants to spend the majority of the day sweeping up. Find the broom’s speed sweet spot — generally between 1/2 to 4 mph. Along with speed, it’s also a good rule of thumb to find the right height — especially if you’re brushing up heavier, caked-on crud.

“As with moving too fast, if the broom is too high, the surface will not be swept as clean,” says Falkavage. “However, if the broom is set too low, there will be a couple of consequences. First, it could result in damage to the swept surface — scratching or removal of blacktop coating for instance. Second, it will result in premature wear of the bristles.”

To set a proper brush level, you’ll need to check the broom’s pattern. For an angle broom, set the brush height according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, then raise the loader arms and start the broom rotating. Lower the loader arms to the operating position for a few seconds while the broom is running and then raise the arms. Turn the machine off and check the length of the swept area.
The distance should be at least 2 in. If the area is larger than 4 in., there is too much down-pressure on the broom head.

In regard to the level of a sweeper broom, the cutting edge must be raised approximately 1 in. off the ground to avoid excessive wear. Having the cutting edge on the ground wears out the edge and the hopper and it does not improve operation.

“When the operator uses the loader arms or tilt cylinders to try to press down on the sweeper in belief that more down pressure will give a better sweep, it causes the brush to become unleveled and have more brush wear and poor sweeping performance,” says Koch.

No Dust Devils, Please

With angle brooms being the most popular and versatile broom attachment on the jobsite, it’s easy to sweep with your brain on autopilot once you’ve found your proper operating speeds and heights. But nothing on the jobsite should ever fall prey to the folly of absent-minded habits. For starters, angle brooms can kick up a great deal of debris, creating a mushroom cloud of dirt,
gravel and dust. You want to keep yourself and co-workers safe and clean.

“Slower brush speeds can minimize flying debris and dust, when operating an angle broom. A water system can help keep down the dust that is disturbed when sweeping. These systems normally cost between $500 and $1,000, depending on configuration,” says Koch.

Also, be sure that you never sweep toward civilians or crewmembers and try to avoid cars. Always wear safety gear such as safety glasses or goggles, hard hat and a long-sleeve shirt. If your chore is particularly dusty, wear a mask. Some manufacturers also offer a dirt/debris deflector — a firm rubber shield that is bolted across the entire length of the broom, aimed at minimizing flying debris. And never sweep around flammable materials.

Any truly hazardous material, such as glass, nails and screws, etc., should be collected with a sweeper broom and unloaded in a dedicated disposal location. Most manufacturers offer a rotary gutter brush to extend the reach of the broom. Additionally, Sweepster offers a vacuum-based dust reduction system for its sweeper hoppers, which captures dust in a washable filter.

Consequently, a sweeper broom has its own operational risks. When operating a sweeper broom on a smaller skid steer, you’ll want to be sure that you don’t overload your machine’s load capacity. This comes into play when the broom is improperly matched to the machine. If you were hoping to get more broom for you buck, you may get a surprise when your skid steer strains to lift the sweeper to deposit its spoils.

While dirt and various jobsite debris are the usual material brooms make quick work of, angle brooms are also utilized for snow removal during the winter months. Rule No. 1: You’ll want to sweep the snow away from the brush, broadcasting it to the side. A high brush speed and slow machine speed will allow the brush to effectively move the snow. When designing your snow removal plan of attack, always have a place to put the snow when it is swept from the surface. If possible, sweep the snow before any foot or
vehicle track has a chance to pack it down. More advanced operators who have a knack for wizardry can use the wind direction to help determine which way to sweep the snow.

“You’ll want to match the speed with the wetness and weight of the snow,” says Doug Laufenberg, product marketing manager of attachments for John Deere. “John Deere offers an additional broom motor for additional torque. Many customers want the additional torque for heavier snow removal and sometimes mud and thick dirt.”

Maintain for the Future

As with most equipment, proper operation begins before you start the engine. Before hopping into the cab and cleaning up, make sure to hit all your broom attachment’s service points. All hoses, cylinders, valves and motors should be checked for leaks and repaired. Also hit all the grease points and check all the hardware for tightness, as well as checking your skid steer’s hydraulic oil level.

Next, take a gander at your broom’s bristle wear pattern. Most broom attachments feature a polypropylene bristle, which should be replaced when broom operation is noticeably deteriorating. On angle brooms, it’s a good idea to replace the bristles before they are worn down to about 15 in. Replacement bristles range from approximately $225 to $700, depending on the size of the brush. A polypropylene and wire combination bristle is available for heavier jobs and will cost about 10 to 12 percent more than polypropylene.

Armed with a sturdy broom, properly fitted to your machine and a host of operational know-how, you’re ready to unleash a can of Mr. Clean on the jobsite. Just don’t go overboard by shaving your head and sporting squeaky clean white Ts.

Jason Morgan is assistant editor of Compact Equipment.

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