Front-End Loader/Backhoe Safety

Front-End LoaderBackhoe Safety
The earliest recorded appearance of a tractor unit equipped with a front loader and a ‘back hoe’ is in 1953 in the United Kingdom by inventor Joseph C. Bamford. That first machine that Joe Bamford built started out as a general-purpose farm tractor. Joe added the two most useful tools – the front loader shovel, and the backhoe. Originally called the tractor backhoe loader, this type of machine is now more commonly known as the Front-end Loader / Backhoe, or Backhoe for short. It has become one of the most useful, popular and versatile machines you’ll find in the construction industry.

Causes of Front-End Loader/Backhoe Accidents

Unfortunately, it is because of their wide utility and variety in size and type that backhoes are involved in several accidents annually all around the world. In the U.S., OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has collected data on fatal accidents involving front-end loaders, with ‘struck-by’ accidents leading. The most common causes of backhoe accidents include:
  • Overturns and Tip-Overs: This is from moving the backhoe on steep and/or unstable grounds/surfaces, especially when making turns. Moving along edges (e.g., embankments) should be done carefully to avoid tip-over hazards.
  • Unseen Obstacles: While the bucket is raised and loaded, it becomes harder for the backhoe operator to see the ground as they move. They may hit an obstacle or run over a hole, destabilizing the backhoe into tipping over.
  • Unexpected Detachment of the Bucket: Even unloaded, backhoe buckets are heavy thanks to the metals and dense materials they are made from. Improper attachment, sudden buckling, and wear from insufficient maintenance can cause the bucket to detach and fall.
  • Improper/Insufficient Maintenance: Neglecting inspections denies the chance to identify failing or malfunctioning parts of the frontend loader. Periodic cleaning to remove collected dirt and rust also helps maintain proper working order. Without proper maintenance, parts can easily break and detach, causing an accident.
  • Overloading: Exceeding manufacturer-recommended weight limits can destabilize the backhoe, tipping it over and also putting personnel at risk from falling loads and sudden impact -struck-by accidents. Ensure the load is also properly balanced before moving the frontend loader.
  • Starting the Backhoe in Gear: This results in sudden movement that can harm personnel by pinning them against surfaces or crushing them under the equipment’s weight.

How to Safely Operate a Front-End Loader/Backhoe?

Most of the accidents resulting from the factors mentioned above can be avoided by employing several measures. Not only will these tips make any front-end loader operation safer, but will improve efficiency and morale among personnel. They include:
  1. Ensure the operator has received adequate front-end loader training and is competent in their work. This includes an understanding of the controls and manufacturer manuals.
  2. Carry out thorough site inspections to identify potential hazards, terrain differences, and underground and overhead utilities, to draw up a work plan accordingly.
  3. Personnel should maintain a minimum safe distance from the front-end loader while in operation. Put up a cordon, barriers or barricades to prevent personnel entry into the backhoe’s work area.
  4. Ensure the bucket and backhoe are properly attached to the main body (tractor) of the front-end loader.
  5. Before initiating digging operations, ensure the stabilizers have been properly deployed. Do not dig under the stabilizers!
  6. Only allow one operator to control the front-end loader at a time, and do so while safely fastened to the operator’s seat.
  7. Never allow personnel to work under a raised bucket, loaded or unloaded.
  8. Always shut down the backhoe properly. This entails:
    1. Lowering the bucket and backhoe to the ground
    2. Extending stabilizers to the ground
    3. Applying the parking brake
    4. Ensure it is not in gear
    5. Shut off the engine
  9. Never use the backhoe to lift personnel.
  10. De-energize overhead and underground cables. Keep the front-end loader at a minimum safe distance away to minimize an electrocution hazard.
  11. When operating on a slope, keep the bucket as low to the ground as possible –this improves stability while giving the operator a better field of view. Only drive the backhoe up and down the slope, never across it.
  12. Carry out inspections at the start and end of every operation. In-depth inspections should be carried out periodically (at least annually) by a competent person.

Backhoe/Front-End Loader Training With TET

Total Equipment Training is your one-stop, all-inclusive –and OSHA-compliant training and inspection organization. Equip yourself and your team with up-to-date skills and knowledge through TET’s Backhoe/Front-end Loader Training program, delivered by an expert team of experienced heavy equipment operators in any state across the country. Consult with TET’s front desk for training tailored to your staff and location, and bolster morale, improve safety, and ensure efficiency in all your construction projects.

Barb Fullman- CEO of Total Equipment Training
About the Author

As the owner of Total Equipment Training, Barb Fullman has been an active contributor to the heavy equipment training industry for over 23 years. Barb, a Penn State University graduate, is recognized as the highest ranking women-owned heavy equipment training business in the US. As a leading authority and provider of heavy equipment training, training manuals and tests based on OSHA Standards and Regulations, Total Equipment Trainings’ client list is composed of most of the Fortune 1000 companies focusing on energy, construction, heavy highway, and manufacturing.

Barb’s motto is “Stay safe, stay up to date”. She is committed to up-to-date & technically correct training, whether it is via in-person or through our library of online heavy equipment resources. With over 50 OSHA qualifying training topics to choose from with TET, the most popular heavy equipment training subjects are mobile cranes, NCCCO, all “dirt equipment”, rigging, crane inspections, and train-the-trainer.