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Heavy Equipment Safety – Chile A Grim Reminder

For the last couple of months there has been a lot of interest in the events involving the miners trapped in Chile. It’s these types of events that bring home the real need for workplace safety. Heavy equipment safety goes beyond simple workplace safety – the equipment itself is a deadly tool if not operated within limits. Did you notice what they used to raise and lower the ‘Phoenix’ rescue capsule? It was a large mobile crane. What probably hasn’t registered with most people who followed these events was the safety aspect of that crane.

Having drilled through to the trapped miners, rather than plowing ahead and trying to free them, they tested every safety aspect possible. The crane double and triple checked to ensure it was on a stable footing. The crane was positioned precisely so that it could raise and lower the rescue capsule with ease. In fact, they practiced the raising and lowering dozens of times before they were happy to perform the rescue. Did you watch the rescue? If you did you will have seen the speed of the cable constantly changing – this was at the instruction of the rescue foreman. This means their communications were spot on as well.

This is a rare and unusual situation. However, the rescue itself, from the crane operator’s perspective, was just another job (albeit with half the world watching and men’s lives at risk). That operator’s training, together with the training of those on ground, was integral to the success of that rescue. For most heavy equipment operators, the job is far more mundane than rescuing people. However, the heavy equipment safety that is required is no less. When looking at heavy equipment training, don’t forget the events of Chile – be sure your training has a strong safety aspect to it.

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