Able to handle many of the tasks for excavators, loaders, and tractors, backhoe loaders are versatile machines that serve you well for so many applications in so many industries. But, as with all heavy equipment, backhoe loader safety must be a priority to prevent injury or death to operators and people on the ground, damage to the machine, and damage to materials.
It helps to brush up on backhoe loader safety even if you’re an experienced operator; sometimes, that can lead to potentially dangerous overconfidence. That especially includes getting too close to an excavation or working on too steep a grade.
Remember, safety at the job site is everyone’s responsibility. But a lot of it falls to the operator, of course.
Backhoe Loader Safety Tips
- All backhoe loader operators must be trained on safe use of the equipment and have access to the OEM user’s manual
- Make sure pre- and post-operation machine inspections are performed every time
- Never operate a backhoe loader showing signs of damage or that has controls or safety mechanisms that aren’t working properly
- Every job site needs a reliable system of communication between ground crew and the backhoe loader operator
- Cabs are for a single occupant only
- The seat belt is there for a reason, so use it
- Know the maximum load capacity and specs for lifting height and distance
- Review basic trench site safety information
- Always keep the backhoe loader as level as you can
- Engage the stabilizers before starting work, spread as far apart as possible while getting the wheels clear off the ground; use blocks or cribbing if the ground surface is too soft
- Shift to a low idle when lifting for optimum control and to reduce noise that can interfere with communication
- Keep the bucket low to the ground while transporting a load to maximize stability and visibility
- Don’t dig beneath the machine, and keep it safely back from the edge of excavations
- Keep the boom tucked in close when moving a load to preserve stability
- When operating on a hill, push the bucket up the slope and dump on the uphill side of the trench; if you must swing a loaded bucket downhill, do so very slowly with the bucket as close to the ground as possible
- Keep the weight over the back of the machine—never to the side—to prevent tipping when using the backhoe as a hoist
- Stay clear of the swing radius and elevated loads if you’re on the ground near a backhoe loader in use
- Go at a slow speed on rough or uneven terrain and when there are people around
- Confirm that the boom is locked and that the swing lock is in place before roading
- Follow the heavy equipment preventive maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer to keep backhoe loaders operating safely and at peak power and efficiency