Construction machine operators have enormous potential to affect their own safety and the safety of everyone else on the job site, as well as the maintenance costs and life of the machines they use. This power all lies in the performance of quick but thorough heavy equipment inspections before and after operation.
Executing these inspections is crucial to worker safety around machinery and a fundamental part of preventive maintenance. Below is an overview of what operators should look at and for before and after getting into any cab. Of course, some heavy equipment has unique parts, functionality, or other factors that necessitate specialized areas of inspection; refer to a machine’s operator’s manual for individual instructions and recommendations.
And it should go without saying that machines showing signs of damage or that have any other kinds of problems should not be put into use until the issue is properly fixed. But we said it anyway. Because it’s important.
Heavy Equipment Inspections Checklist
- Look all around under the machine to make sure there are no visible leaks or pools of fluid; if there are, the source must be identified and the leak repaired
- Inspect the tires, rims, or undercarriage for accumulation of dirt or debris, excessive wear, and any type of visible damage; problems in these areas can pose serious safety concerns and diminish the machine’s performance
- Check the fluid levels to make sure there’s enough engine oil, hydraulic oil, coolant, diesel, diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), and others, as these are the lifeblood of any piece of heavy equipment; too little, and performance suffers and there’s a risk of costly damage being done
- Remove any dirt, mud, debris, and material anywhere around the radiator and other engine parts and in the engine compartment; all engine parts need to be able to move, breathe, and cool properly, but accumulation of any foreign matter can interfere with all of this
- Take a look at the air, fuel, oil, and other filters, keeping an eye out for damage or leaks; it’s usually pretty cheap and easy to replace a problem filter, but that’s not always the case with the damage that can result from unaddressed filter problems
- Check the fan, alternator, and other belts, looking for wear, frays, or other damage; just like with the filters, it’s much better in terms of machine downtime and cost if belt problems are caught and addressed early
- Inspect the heavy equipment’s greasing points and grease joints and high-friction areas as needed to ensure smooth, efficient operations and prevent undue wear and damage; every operator’s manual has details about grease points and frequency
- Check hydraulic connections, pressure, and the entire coupling structure; don’t forget to release pressure when taking off attachments
- Pay attention to buckets, teeth, and other ground tools, making sure there’s no breaks or damage; problems here can greatly impede productivity, as well as fuel efficiency and safety, and can lead to structural wear and damage
- Confirm that the attachment mount-up is properly connected, including a flush and fully engaged coupler and securely connected hydraulic hoses and electrical connections
- Take a few minutes to go over the full structure of the machine; search for wear, damage, and other problems
- Give the operator’s cab a once-over and remove anything that doesn’t belong in there
- Check the operator controls and indicator and warning lights, and make sure lights and safety features like the backup alarm and rear-view camera are working; take a look at the mirrors and position them for maximum visibility before operations