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Tips for Vacuum Excavator Safety

Vacuum excavators have an excellent reputation in the underground construction industry as a much safer alternative for exposing buried utilities, compared to the traditional techniques. It is true that the soft excavation method followed by these excavators significantly reduces the probability of utility strikes. That being said, the workers must abide by certain guidelines to ensure safety for themselves and people around them while operating a vacuum excavator.

The most important step to be followed by the equipment operators is to adequately train and educate themselves about operating the vacuum excavator properly. Most of the renowned manufacturers of these excavators as well their dealers conduct different types of training programs for the contractors. Moreover, before operating a vacuum excavator, the operator must take a close look the operator’s manual and examine the machine to review its safety decals. In order to ensure safe operation of the machine, it is important that the operator has a clear understanding of how everything works. In addition to receiving proper training, the operators should also follow some vacuum excavator safety tips that can be divided into different categories as mentioned below.

Safety at the Job Site:

As vacuum excavators can be used in many different work environments and applications, it is important to clearly understand and comply with all the applicable local or regional safety regulations.

  • Use of protective equipment for personal safety: The personal protective equipment requirements for vacuum excavators can vary significantly, depending on the type (air or hydro) of the system and working environment. In order to ensure personal safety, the operators must use appropriate eye protection gears, boots, ear plugs, a hard hat, and reflective clothing. For example, dialectic boots must be used while working in the vicinity of live electrical lines. While working near a suction hose, the operators should never wear loose clothing. Moreover, if the operator has long hair, it should always be pulled back near a suction hose.
  • Knowing the surroundings properly: Before starting their job, the operators must inspect the job site thoroughly. This will ensure that all essential utilities have been located and all potential obstacles both in-the-air and above the ground have been taken into consideration. Use of proper signage or safety cones is essential while working close to busy sidewalks or roadways. Also, before starting the work, proper care should be taken to ensure that all open holes are covered or fenced-off.
  • Maintaining a safe distance while operating the machine: Maintaining a safe distance is of paramount importance, whenever the tank door of the vacuum excavator is open. The operators should keep an eye out and make sure that no one is present near the machine’s rear end. Also, cave-ins are a genuine possibility while working with vacuum excavators. Therefore, the operators must maintain a safe distance from the open holes. At the same time, they should also keep their limbs as far away as possible from the vacuum hose nozzle ad the front of the air or water wand.
  • Avoiding the application of more pressure than required: Regardless of whether the operator is using an air or hydro vacuum, the utility lines may get damaged by the application of too much pressure.

Safety while Travelling:

Just like while working in the job site, following adequate safety measures is equally important while travelling back and forth between different job sites or dump sites.

  • Awareness of the law: Whether the operator uses a PTO truck, truck-mounted, or trailer mounted vacuum excavator, he or she must have clear understanding of all the local as well as state imposed load restrictions, if any. They should have all the essential licenses and permits.
  • Keeping things organized and clean: In general, most of the job sites tend to be extremely muddy. At the same time, after the work, everything is not always put back in the place where it should be. Before they start travelling, the operators should carry out a quick check to ensure that everything is clean and secured. Loose tools and rocks can very easily act as dangerous projectiles while travelling at a high speed.
  • Double checking the trailer hook-ups: Before leaving a job site, it is important to ensure that the trailer is secured to the truck and the trailer lights are in proper working condition. Also, the trailer safety chains must be attached to the truck and crossed under the hitch.
  • Remaining well aware of the obstacles while backing up: While dumping, the operators must maintain a safe distance from the pit. Also, care must be taken to stay away from electrical lines that the tank may come in contact with, while it is raised for dumping.

Routine Maintenance: In addition to these safety guidelines, routine maintenance of the machines can help identify and rectify issues before they turn into a safety hazard.

  • Ensuring that the tires are properly aired up and in good condition.
  • Checking the lights, fittings, and hoses regularly.
  • Inspection of the belts.
  • Looking for leaks.

At K and G Machinery, a team of heavy machinery experts are available to solve all your problems related to purchase, use, and maintenance of your equipment. We are also one of the most trusted railway equipment companies in Australia. Contact us today for any problems related to your excavators.