Brian Birch, Assistant Executive Director for the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA) and Caterpillar guest blogger, shares some important tips to help you ensure the safety of your customers, machines and operators during this upcoming snow and ice removal season.
During the winter season, we have a laser focus on safety – a value we share with Caterpillar, a company that is extremely safety conscious. Together, we’ve come up with some tips to keep in mind for the winter season when pushing snow with heavy or compact equipment.
Stay protected: Even though most equipment that you’ll use in winter weather will have a cab or at least some protection from the elements (hopefully), make sure you still wear appropriate clothing and protective equipment. We recommend hard hat, safety glasses and hearing protection be worn by those operating skid steer loaders and other heavier equipment. Also, watch for loose clothing that could catch on hydraulic or steering control systems.
Perform daily circle checks: Pushing snow can be tough on any piece of equipment, so make sure your equipment is ready. Do a daily circle check of each machine that includes checking the fluids, attachments, tires/tracks, backup alarms, lights and other key areas for damage or problems.
Train for safety: Anyone who will operate snow management equipment for your organization should go through at least an annual refresher course on the machine(s) they will operate, including training specific to managing snow and ice with that machine, which comes with its own set of challenges.
Did you know that operators becoming pinned between the lift arms and frame of a skid steer loader account for 70 percent of fatal skid steer accidents? This happens when an operator leaves the cab to try to remove excess snow from underneath the foot pedals. Be sure operators know how to safely perform this task. Or better yet, switch to machines that feature safer, seat-mounted joystick controls.
Don’t just teach, show: All safety training should include hands-on time in the machine and discussions about potential hazards. Also, make sure operators sign off on safety training once it’s completed and keep the files.
Efficiency + safety = success: Efficiency in snow removal is key to staying ahead of the storm. However, efficiency doesn’t mean just doing the work faster, it means combining speed with a defined level of performance. Think of ways to ensure efficiency while fostering safety, like coordinating pieces of equipment onsite to work together.
Avoid excessive down pressure: Some operators apply too much down pressure while plowing, especially in skid steer loaders, causing the wheels to lift off the ground. This approach will cause damage to property, create unsafe conditions for operators and result in excess wear on the equipment.
See and be seen: Make sure the equipment has adequate visibility for the operator, and that all lighting and warning sound devices are in working order. When managing snow during the day in parking lots or in parking decks, it is especially important to train operators to be vigilant for pedestrians, vehicles and other obstacles, especially when backing up.