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There are many areas across the east coast that rarely feel the brunt of tropical storms, at least not to the extent of storms like hurricane Irene. We are still seeing images of the damage caused by the storm’s progress, and some areas are only now starting to surface from the flooding. For heavy equipment operators, while Irene may be long gone, what has been left behind should be a cause for concern.
Storms upset the landscape – we have all seen the images. Heavy equipment operators are often working in these storm-damaged areas, and danger can come from the least expected areas. High winds, a lot of water, and weakened root systems can see trees topple over with no warning at all. If it’s not the tree, then it’s weakened limbs that can come crashing down. Building sites are generally checked after a storm before workers are allowed in, but in previous years, those checks have been found wanting, and workers have been injured from falling debris, or building materials that have been moved.
The onus is still on an operator to check their environment, and to take all reasonable precautions. If you’re operating a bulldozer in a timbered area, you need to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Excavator operators are another group that should be aware of their surroundings. You would imagine an old established suburb would be safe, but if there are trees around, and there has been a storm, then loose branches are still a danger. When I say loose branches, I am not talking about twigs – I am talking about large branches ten to fifteen feet long and two or three feet in diameter – that’s large enough to cause serious injury.
Heavy equipment training spends a lot of time looking at heavy equipment safety. Common sense is an important component of safety, as is awareness. If you know a storm has been through an area, then take extra care when you first start work, you never know what sort of damage has been caused by that storm.