On-Site Magazine

Staying safe and productive when using construction attachments

By Jonathan Gardner   

Construction Equipment Health & Safety

Equipment inspection, maintenance and knowledge are the keys to getting the job done right.

(Photo courtesy of Kubota Canada Ltd.)

Attachments are invaluable tools that enhance the performance and versatility of construction equipment, enabling operators to efficiently and effectively dig holes, grade, cut trenches, remove pavement and debris and transport materials. With the right attachments, even a small crew can perform complex tasks with ease. However, to prevent accidents and injuries on the jobsite, contractors must take the proper safety precautions before taking on a project.

 

Inspect your equipment

It almost goes without saying, but operators should always read the manual before using an attachment. With that knowledge in hand, the first step when using an attachment on a jobsite is to a walk-around of the equipment to verify there is no damage or missing components. For instance, it’s important to inspect buckets daily for any cracks or stress fractures, and to replace any missing teeth immediately. The same goes for trenchers. Ensure teeth are in place and that digging-chain tension falls within the parameters specified in the operator’s manual.

Hydraulic lines should also be inspected as any leaks could cause considerable damage to equipment and injury to workers. When working with box blades with 2D grading systems, make sure the cutting edge is good and replace if needed.

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When inspecting grapples, check the bushings and pins for wear and double-check that the attachment is properly secured before use. And, when using cold planer attachments to repair potholes, cut utility trenches or mill asphalt, ensure the picks are in good working condition and the appropriate ones are selected for the job at hand. Any missing picks should be replaced right away with the fork pick tool.

 

Maintain your equipment

(Photo courtesy of Kubota Canada Ltd.)

Attachments require regular maintenance to ensure smooth project execution and extended lifespan. This includes checking for missing or damaged parts, proactive lubrication and proper storage. With a 2D grading system, the best maintenance step is to remove it at the end of the day and store it out of the elements. Since the box blade moves a lot during the day, greasing all moving parts will help get the proper grade.

The majority of hydraulic attachments require greasing. Grapples, for example, have a lot of movement and if hoses are not routed properly, damage can result. Cold planers also have many movements. In addition to greasing, it is wise to verify that the depth can be adjusted, and that tilt and side shift are working to reduce downtime on the job.

Regular cleaning is also essential for all attachments. For the trencher attachment specifically, a comprehensive cleaning with a power washer will do wonders to remove debris and oil and keep it in good working order.

Know your equipment

Just as you wouldn’t operate machinery you’re not trained on, you want to have a thorough knowledge of any attachments being used. To ensure a project goes safely and smoothly, attachments must be compatible with the machine. For this, it’s critical to know the capabilities of both the power unit and the attachment.

If the power unit is standard flow only, high-flow attachments will not work at optimal performance. Conversely, power units that are equipped with high flow should not have high flow activated when operating a standard flow attachment. This could cause damage to the hydraulic motor. Therefore, it’s important to check the operator’s manual to find out what your power unit is equipped with, and how to activate both standard and high flow.

For the attachment itself, the label on the hydraulic motor will provide the flow rate and allow operators to activate the proper flow on the power unit. Another thing to keep in mind is some attachments have more than one function, requiring electric over hydraulic. For instance, a box blade requires a 14-pin connector to tilt or move the blade up or down, and a snowblower requires it for chute rotation and deflection.

Know your limitations

It’s important to know the maximum lift load or load capacity of the equipment in operation, and to never exceed these limits. When using a pallet fork, it’s common in the industry for the attachment’s lift capacity to exceed that of the power unit. However, using a pallet fork that doesn’t meet or exceed the lift capacity of the power unit could put operators in a situation where the load could be dropped, leading to injury or worse.

Finally, stay cautious and aware of your surroundings, especially if it has been a while since you last used a certain attachment or piece of equipment. Remember, getting the job done right with no injuries is more important than getting the job done quickly.

 

Jonathan Gardner is the product manager for construction equipment at Kubota Canada Ltd.

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