For anyone working in construction, the versatile backhoe loader is one of the industry’s go-to machines, a popular choice that’s powerful enough to take on jobs where moving earth, loading and spreading materials, installing big equipment like septic tanks, and digging water, sewer and gas lines are what needs to get done.
1. Plan The Job Ahead of Time
Operating a backhoe loader safely using best practices starts with the person in the driver’s seat. Survey the job site well in advance of the work whistle, mapping out the safest routes for the backhoe in the least amount of time. Take a look at the condition of the ground around the dig site and decide what course of action to take.
If you’re the operator, the first thing you should do after you jump in and take your place is fasten the seat belt. A roll cage will only protect you in case of an overturn if you are buckled in. Make sure the parking brake is engaged, then get familiar with the controls. Make sure you can reach all of them easily while sitting in the seat and that they move freely. Below are a few more steps for operating a backhoe loader safely.
2. Take Control
Steady, even, level movement is the safest way to maintain control of a backhoe loader. Even though most of its weight is distributed towards the rear, some loads will change the center of gravity, affecting the machine’s stability. When in motion, keep the bucket low to the ground. Driving up sloped surfaces in reverse, i.e., with the backend first, can keep the front of the backhoe on the ground, especially if there’s no load in the bucket. Operating a backhoe on slopes is the most difficult to maintain stability. Keep the backhoe as level as possible when in motion, taking care when repositioning on a slope. Backhoe loaders are equipped with stabilizer legs. Spread them out to their full width, which will hold the machine in place while digging or lifting the bucket. If at any time the machine starts to feel unstable, stop everything to regain control.
3. Prepare for Excavation
Make sure to check the job site for any buried utilities such as telephone or natural gas lines and electrical transmission cables. Avoid cave-ins by knowing the soil conditions beforehand and placing excavated material at least three feet away from the dig site. The operator is responsible for the safety of all personnel around the dig site. Before moving the machine, sound the horn or the backup alarm to alert other workers. Before any heavy lifting, survey the area for people in the way and make sure the backhoe is as stable as possible.
4. Know Your Weight
It is the operator’s responsibility to know how much a load needs to weigh to pick it up safely at a given angle. This requires a study of the machine’s lifting capabilities; the heights and distances are found on its spec sheet. If in doubt, test the lift before any material is moved. Slow and steady wins the race here; transport excavated material with the bucket low to the ground, rather than too high in the air.
5. Shut Down for the Day Safely, Too
After work is finished for the day, park the backhoe on a level surface. Set the parking brake, lower the front and back attachments to the ground, put the engine in neutral gear and drop the hydraulic levers to release any pressure.
Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with excavation projects. From backhoe loaders to bulldozers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.