Digging into trencher safety

March 10, 2020 -  By
Man using Ditch Witch trencher (Photo: Ditch Witch)

Experts say that tracked trenchers can offer more maneuverability and depth control on uneven ground. (Photo: Ditch Witch)

Take advantage of certified training.

“Proper equipment training is one of the best ways to extend the lifetime of your machine, and more importantly, keep operators and crews safe,” says Brian Grim, Ditch Witch product training and development manager.

He recommends opportunities for education through associations, certified training through equipment manufacturers and online walk-behind trencher training. For example, many companies offer advanced education, including machine-control best practices, equipment controls and safety procedures to ensure operators are prepared for diverse and challenging projects.

Consider the site.

Matt Hutchinson, product manager — tree care, rental & landscape at Vermeer, recommends determining the soil conditions, trench depth and trench widths before a job begins, since paying attention to those details will determine what size machine a contractor needs for a job.

Tracked trenchers are becoming more popular because of their versatility and because of their flotation in soft or sensitive ground conditions, according to Hutchinson. Tracks aren’t susceptible to tire damage as wheeled units are, and offer more maneuverability and depth control on uneven ground.

Walk and mark the path.

The first step in any digging job is to call 811 and give them the required time to mark any buried utilities and consider where known utilities are when planning a proposed installation path, Grim says. “It’s good practice to walk and mark the path you’re wanting to trench to ensure you don’t have any unknowns once the job begins,” he adds.

Let the trencher do the digging.

“Sometimes operators feel the need to overwork their machine, but they are actually doing more harm than good,” Grim says. “The machine will not dig any faster than conditions will allow, but overworking it will certainly wear out its chain, teeth and sprockets and tires at a much higher rate.”

A common mistake is to rush and plunge the boom into the ground too quickly, as opposed to allowing the boom to pull through the ground, according to Grim. Moving too fast can send your machine to the shop and negatively impact your productivity.

As with all machinery, check your operator’s manual for machine-specific guidelines and other important safety recommendations.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in Irrigation+Water Management, March 2020
Abby Hart

About the Author:

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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