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Safety watch: Balancing a heavy load
Lauren Heartsill Dowdle | August 7, 2013

Safety Watch 18The accident: A 45-year-old landscape crew member is operating a tractor equipped with a front and rear bucket. He fills the bucket with dirt and lifts it 6 feet above the ground. The terrain slopes at an angle of 13 to 17 degrees. While backing away from the dirt pile, he accelerates to an excessive speed for the terrain, and the tractor rolls over. The tractor is not equipped with a roll over protection system (ROPS), and he is crushed by the tractor’s seat and controls.

The bottom line: The tractor’s center of gravity was high because the bucket was in an elevated position. Combining the bucket position with his fast speed, which was evident from the skid marks in the dirt, caused the tractor to turn over.

Each year, an average of 132 workers are crushed to death from tractors overturning. And most of these could have been prevented if the operators and business owners had followed the proper safety practices:

Equip all tractors with a ROPS and seat belt.

Develop, implement and enforce a safety program that trains employees on all equipment used.

Reduce speed before turning. If you turn while going fast, the tractor will attempt to go straight, instead of turning. Also, lower speeds when using attachments. If on a steep incline, back down slowly and apply the brakes lightly when needed.

Keep the bucket as close to the ground as possible. The tractor’s center of gravity is affected if the bucket is too high.

Watch for rocks, holes or ditches, which can cause the tractor to overturn.

Lower and raise attachments slowly and smoothly.

For some attachments, counterweights may be necessary for stability.

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