Why safety is the most important part of working with attachments

Double-checking attachment points is a crucial step to maintaining a safe work environment. (Photo: Takeuchi)
Double-checking attachment points is a crucial step to maintaining a safe work environment. (Photo: Takeuchi)
Double-checking attachment points is a crucial step to maintaining a safe work environment. (Photo: Takeuchi)
Double-checking attachment points is a crucial step to maintaining a safe work environment. (Photo: Takeuchi)

Attachments make tasks involving compact equipment more manageable, less time-consuming and ultimately more profitable for landscape contractors. Crew members should take operator and job site safety seriously when coupling attachments with a compact skid-steer, wheel loader or tractor. Experts share the guidelines every contractor should heed.

Understand the basics

Safety is a top priority, beginning with reading and understanding a machine’s operator’s manual, says Lee Padgett, a Takeuchi-US product manager. 

Operators must be aware of their surroundings and ensure the immediate area is free of potential hazards. Job planning allows operators to assess their surroundings and identify potential risks, says Ryan Ruhl, a product consultant for compact construction equipment at John Deere.

“Don’t just dive into a pile of bushes (with a brush cutter attachment) and start tearing them up,” he says. “You’ve got to know where to place that material and what risks could be in it.”

When changing or hooking up an attachment, manufacturers stress the need for operators to verify the connection. Often, manufacturers include a visual indicator if the connection is unsuccessful or incomplete. As a safeguard, have the loader place down pressure on the attachment to test the connection. Another visual precaution is to lift and angle the attachment to verify the pins are fully engaged.

Similarly, when uncoupling an attachment, ensure the area is clear of people and potential hazards and confirm that the surface is stable enough to support the attachment’s weight. A designated rack or stand is always the safest and preferred place to put the attachment.

While most hydraulic fittings are “quick-couplers” nowadays, Ruhl advises operators to take a moment to check those connections. And when doing so, be sure to wear gloves. 

Get up to speed

Routine safety training focused on correctly using attachments and loaders is essential for every team member. Landscape contractors should establish regularly scheduled training programs throughout the year. 

“Just like a maintenance plan protects the machine and ensures uptime, a training program coupled with a clear understanding of the operator’s manual greatly reduces the likelihood of job site accidents,” Padgett says.

Manufacturers and dealers are great resources for safety training information. Ruhl recommends a foreman or equipment manager receive in-depth training and pass it on to their coworkers. 

“I really like one-on-one training, but at times it’s just not possible,” he says. “Give that in-depth training to one individual and then ask them to ‘spread the gospel,’ if you will, safety-wise.”

Right tool, wrong job

Whether it’s incorrectly matched to the carrier unit or the wrong tool for the job at hand, there is an inherent danger in using the wrong attachment. Padgett says it’s critical to know a machine’s lifting and hydraulic capacity before coupling to an attachment. 

“The attachment could be too heavy for the machine, causing a tipping hazard,” he warns. “Or the machine may not have the hydraulic capacity to run the attachment, causing overheating and poor performance, as well as undue stress on the machine’s loader arms and frame.”

Then there’s the matter of using an attachment for an unintended task. This is often the case when landscape contractors apply rotary/brush cutters and mulchers for more than the manufacturer’s design intended. 

“There are warnings on the sides of these attachments to stay back 200 feet,” Ruhl says. “But if you get into material that attachment isn’t meant for, it could start flinging rocks 300 feet. You may end up shooting a rock at a coworker who thinks they’re outside the danger zone.”

Daily routine

Equipment operators should perform a daily walk-around before using any machine or attachment to ensure everything is in working order. 

Use a checklist, including items such as monitoring fluid levels, inspecting tires and tracks for damage and signs of leaks and checking for wear and loose or missing parts. Padgett says most manufacturers provide recommended checkpoints in their operator’s manuals.

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