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Toolbox Tuesday: Wheel loader safety

Updated: Mar 8

Welcome to another edition of Toolbox Tuesday, VISTA’s new weekly safety tip series. This week’s topic is front end loader safety. Wheel loaders can be one of the most dangerous machines on job sites. Here are some valuable tips to operate if safely. A wheel loader is highly maneuverable and can move quickly around a job site. When digging and loading, it tends to make frequent backing maneuvers, usually with limited visibility behind it. With an empty bucket, the front-end loader is tail heavy, and tends to bob and weave at faster ground speeds. All of these factors can put workers and other machines in peril if they venture into its path. Here are some tips to make sure you’re operating your wheel loader safely:

  1. Conduct a pre-use walk-around inspection of your machine at the start of your day, including all major components: tires, brakes, hydraulic systems, steering, lights and backup alarm. Look for anything out of the ordinary and report it to your company’s maintenance manager.

  2. At the end of your walk-around, do a final visual visual check of the area immediately surrounding the loader to make sure there are no obstructions or people nearby.

  3. Move cautiously, especially on rough roads and in congested areas. When backing, use your mirrors to check what’s behind you. Never disable your loader’s backup alarm. It could save someone’s life!

  4. Whenever you’re working near an embankment, grade or trench, make sure the edge is guarded by rip rap, barricades or a berm. All three are designed to keep you and your machine from plunging over the edge.

  5. When traveling with a loaded bucket, keep it one to three feet above the ground for maximum stability, balance and visibility.

  6. For better stability, travel in reverse when you are required to carry loads down a steep incline. This will prevent the loader from tipping forward if you have to use your brakes while going down the incline. It will also prevent material from spilling into your travel path.

  7. Travel forward when going uphill. The center of gravity of the machine is near the front of the loader when the bucket is loaded. So as long as the loader is traveling straight up the incline, the chance of a tipover occurring is very low.

  8. If you’re loading trucks or dumping material with a spotter, make sure you’re clear on the horn or hand signals to be used. Misunderstandings can cause accidents!

  9. At the end of your shift, find a clean, level area that’s free of obstructions. Bring your loader to stop, shift the transmission into neutral and apply the parking brake. Lower your bucket to the ground. If your loader has been working hard, let the engine idle five minutes before shutting it down, so it doesn’t overheat and damage vital components.Interested in related products? See: Wheel Loader Operation & Safety or Wheel Loader Operating Techniques Sources:

  10. 180 Safety Talks for Supervisors from the Colorado Contractors Association

  11. VISTA Training Silver Series training program – Wheel Loader: Operation & Safety.

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