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A major component of heavy equipment safety for excavator and crane operators is the look up and live philosophy. It can be all too easy to fall into the tunnel vision trap when you are digging trenches or using a crane to move objects at or below eye level. This tunnel vision sees an operator focus on what is in front and down from their position in the cab. Of course, danger often lurks from above.
A story by Tessa Muggeridge (Sept. 24, 2009 08:17 AM – The Arizona Republic) involves a crane operator who was working on a road side. With traffic light, he was using part of the road to move his load. When a truck appeared, he instinctively moved the crane’s boom out of the way – and straight into overhead power lines.
He was probably focused on what he was doing and the traffic – which is fine, that is his job. What he forgot to add into that focus before even climbing into the cab was what was overhead. This has to be a part of an operator’s checklist before starting work. What is around them and what is above them. If they are close to power lines, they need to make a mental note to be ultra-cautious.
The crane operator was lucky – he lived to tell the tale, suffering serious burns on his ears, face, chest and legs. He wasn’t the only victim – a work colleague would have to consider himself very unlucky. He suffered second-degree burns and blisters on his ears. How? He was wearing a communications head set and power flowed through the crane and into him.
It’s an unfortunate accident yet one that could have been avoided. Occupations Safety and Health Administration will now review the accident and you can guarantee that some of the questions they will ask will include whether or not the crane operator was certified and what, if any, heavy equipment safety training the operator had received. Heavy equipment safety is important – when working with equipment, look up and check for power lines – it may just save your life.