Most fatal and serious injuries involving excavators occur when the excavator is:
- moving – and strikes a pedestrian, particularly while reversing
- slewing – trapping a person between the excavator and a fixed structure or vehicle
- working – when the moving bucket or other attachment strikes a pedestrian or when the bucket inadvertently falls from the excavator
Controlling the risk
It is important to select the right excavator for the job. There are five main precautions needed to control excavator hazards. These are:
- exclusion - people should be kept away from areas of excavator operation by the provision of suitable barriers - most excavator related deaths involve a person working in the vicinity of the excavator rather than the driver - bunting or fencing can be used to create and maintain a pedestrian exclusion area
- clearance - when slewing in a confined area the selection of plant with minimal tail swing is preferred - clearance of over 0.5m needs to be maintained between any part of the machine, particularly the ballast weight, and the nearest obstruction
- visibility - excavators with the best view around them directly from the driver position should be selected - excavators should be equipped with adequate visibility aids to ensure drivers can see areas where people may be at risk from the operation of the machine
- signaller - a signaller should be provided in a safe position to direct excavator operation and any pedestrian movements
- bucket attachment - quick hitches can be used to secure buckets to the excavator arm - check that you are able to implement and manage any quick hitch used - a number of deaths have occurred when the bucket has fallen from the machine
Training and competence
There are three categories of worker who must be trained and competent regarding the excavator hazards and precautions:
- drivers - should be trained, competent and authorised to operate the specific excavator - training certificates from recognised schemes help demonstrate competence and certificates should be checked for validity
- signallers - should be trained, competent and authorised to direct excavator movements and, where possible, provided with a protected position from which they can work in safety
- pedestrians - should be instructed in safe pedestrian routes on site and the procedure for making drivers aware of their presence
Inspection and maintenance
A programme of daily visual checks, regular inspections and servicing schedules should be established in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the risks associated with each vehicle.
Drivers should be encouraged to report defects or problems. Reported problems should be put right quickly and the excavator taken out of service if the item is safety critical.
More information about excavators is available on the HSE website at the HSE excavator page.