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Mini Excavator Safety Tips

Category: Equipment and Solutions

Mini excavators are among the most valuable and versatile machines at any job site. You can use these compact, agile earthmovers to dig trenches and holes, demolish small structures, perform landscaping work, repair sewer lines and even clear snow from your work area.

Like any heavy equipment, your mini excavator requires careful operation to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. The potential dangers of incorrect usage include rollovers, cave-ins, electrocution from contacting power lines, collisions with other machines and striking workers on the ground.

NMC Cat has assembled the following tips for safely operating a mini excavator that will protect your crews and reduce job site hazards.

Before Operating

Excavator safety begins before you even touch the machine. Following these steps ensures the equipment is functioning correctly and the surrounding environment is free of hazards:

  • Get trained: Never attempt to operate a mini excavator or other heavy equipment without proper training. Besides increasing the risk of an accident, you could be committing a potentially costly OSHA violation.
  • Become familiar with the equipment: Even if you’re a veteran mini excavator operator, no two machines are exactly alike. If you’re using a model for the first time, review the owner’s manual and make sure you know what all the controls do before starting the engine.
  • Check the mirrors and windows: Maximum visibility is crucial for preventing accidents at busy job sites. Adjust and clean the mirrors to ensure you can see everything behind you. If your machine has an enclosed cab, you may also need to clean the windows.
  • Test the controls: Confirm the locations of the levers, pedals and joysticks that control the various machine functions. If you’re using attachments, verify that they’re securely fastened and in proper working order.
  • Survey the work area: Check the terrain to determine if there are any slopes or uneven spots that could pose a safety risk.
  • Wear a seat belt: Your mini excavator should have seat belts to keep you secure and comfortable as you operate the machine.

While Operating

Mini excavator safety tips to follow during use at the job site include:

  • Proper slope navigation: If you’re working on hilly terrain or grades, travel up and down slopes vertically instead of diagonally to reduce the risk of sliding or tipping. Make small, gradual steering adjustments when changing directions.
  • Keep the bucket close to the ground: When transporting loads, maintain a low bucket position to provide additional stability.
  • Maintain a safe speed: Reduce the machine’s speed when traveling over rough terrain or through congested work areas.
  • Don’t exceed bucket load capacity: Mini excavator buckets come in various sizes and load capacities. Know how much your machine’s bucket can handle and never go over the limit. An overloaded bucket increases the tipping hazard and can damage the boom, arms and hydraulic system.
  • Prevent cave-ins: Cave-ins are a common hazard at excavation sites. You can reduce the risk by placing dirt under the tracks to keep the machine level while digging and depositing spoil piles as far away from the work area as possible.
  • Don’t swing while loading: Avoid swinging the cab or bucket when using the excavator to fill trucks. Never attempt to clean the bucket or remove any remaining dirt or debris by striking the bucket on the ground.

After Operating

Operating a mini excavator safely also extends to what you do when you’ve finished the job:

  • Lower the bucket and park safely: Before turning off the machine, make sure the bucket is resting on the ground. A raised bucket could fall on a worker or pedestrian and cause a severe injury. Park on a level surface to prevent rolling.
  • Reduce the RPMs: Run the machine at half throttle for a few minutes before shutting down to cool the engine and turbocharger.
  • Remove the key: A key left in the ignition is a temptation to passersby and can lead to theft. Always lock the cab and take the key with you.
  • Exit safely: Never jump off a mini excavator. Use the grab-handles, track or skid-resistant surfaces to assist you and keep you from slipping and falling.

Get More Safety Tips for Mini Excavators

At NMC Cat, we do everything possible to ensure our customers can maximize job site safety. We offer Cat® mini excavators for sale and rent — Cat products feature the most advanced safety innovations on the market to protect operators and workers on the ground. We can also provide training to instruct your team on proper operating procedures.

Contact us to learn more about our equipment selection and receive additional mini excavator safety tips.