Scenes on the news of a crane that was damaged by the high winds in New York this week are a timely warning to all heavy equipment operators. Weather is an important factor when operating heavy equipment, cranes, and even when driving large trucks. Strong winds can be a problem, however, what really causes damage is when that strong wind gusts. You may feel that operating a vehicle in 30 mph winds is okay – and it may be, however, wind can often gust to twice it’s speed, so that 30 mph suddenly becomes 60 mph, or more. The real damage being caused because it is unexpected.
It’s not just wind, rain and snow can also cause real problems. It may be quite safe to drive a bulldozer into a paddock to clear away trees and debris, however, a sudden downpour of rain could make a bulldozer’s escape a little difficult, perhaps even impossible, until the water has dispersed.
When thinking about heavy equipment safety, it’s easy to forget about weather, more so if you have had months (or years) of reasonable weather. The storms currently crossing our east coast are once every ten or twenty year storms – the kind of storms that most operators rarely get to see. This week’s storm is so severe it’s plain commonsense not to operate your equipment unless it’s an emergency. It’s the smaller storms that are a worry, the kind of storm where a heavy equipment operator may be tempted to risk it. You really need to ask yourself – is the risk worth it?
As heavy equipment operators, you have a responsibility to operate your equipment in a safe manner. It is your responsibility to ensure that people and objects are safe, that your equipment is safe, and ultimately, that you yourself are safe. If there is a risk to any of those areas, you shouldn’t be operating your equipment. Heavy equipment training can cover a lot of safety issues, however, it’s your job to assess the environment at the time.