Skid steer loaders can be dangerous if you do not observe certain safety precautions. Injuries and deaths are preventable. The most commonly reported causes of serious injury and death using skid steer loaders are: crushed by moving parts and rollover accidents.

Safe work habits are important. Here are three actions you can take to be safe on the job site:

1. Learn all you can-To prevent accidents with skid steer loaders, read and follow directions in the equipment operator’s manual. Pay attention to safety instructions in the manual and to warning labels you see on the equipment. If you have questions, stop and ask your supervisor before you continue.

2. Concentrate on working safely-Sometimes you may be tempted to take risky shortcuts. Remember that an accident can leave you permanently injured or cut your life short. For your safety and the safety of those around you, do not take unnecessary risks. No deadline is so pressing you can’t take time to do your work safely.

3. Additional precautions-Do not operate machinery if you are tired or have taken drugs or alcohol. If you are on medication, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist if you are capable of safely operating machinery.

Prepare for safe operation

Safety starts before the engine. Every day, you should walk around the loader to see that it is ready for safe operation. Alert your supervisor before starting the loader if you find anything wrong during your daily check.

  • Tires: Proper maintenance is important because good tires allow a skid steer loader to perform well on different types of surfaces. Proper tire inflation will be printed on the sidewall of the tire.
  • Cab: Some loaders are factory-equipped with side screens to keep you from getting crushed by moving parts outside the cab. Some cabs are also designed to protect you if the loader rolls over or if material falls onto the cab. If the cab frame or side screens are damaged or appear to have been altered, tell your supervisor and do not operate the loader until a qualified person has determined it is safe.
  • Safety belt and bar: The safety belt and safety bar work together to keep you securely in the driver’s seat during operation. Damage to either of these safety devices can lead to serious injury.
  • Grab handles: Your hands can easily slip off worn-out grips, causing you to fall or lose control of the loader.
  • Steps: Slips and falls on steps are common and cause you to engage controls inside the cab if you fall on them. Keep the steps free of ice, mud and debris. When the non-slip step surface becomes worn, it can become slick and should be replaced.
  • Attachments-front and rear: Many different attachments are used on skid steer loaders, including buckets, backhoes, augers, chippers, trenchers and pallet forks. Make sure attachments are mounted and fastened correctly. The sudden release of an attachment can cause a load to drop, making the loader unstable and possibly injuring bystanders.
  • Fluid leaks: Leaks can cause the loader to break down. Fluids can also be a fire hazard. Puddles of fluid under the loader indicate something is leaking. Report signs of leaking fluid to your supervisor immediately.

Prevent rollover accidents

When a skid steer loader becomes unstable or out of balance, it tips over. Overloading, carrying loaders too high, operating on rough or uneven surfaces, adding attachments or driving too fast for conditions cause the loader to become unstable.

Human reaction time is too slow to stop a rollover once it starts. You can avoid rollovers by recognizing dangerous situations and taking action to avoid them.

  • Don’t overload the attachment. Check the capacity label, data plate or operator’s manual for maximum load limit. Exceeding that limit may cause the loader to become unstable and roll over.
  • Evenly distribute the load on the attachment so the loader doesn’t tip over.
  • Secure unstable loads so they won’t shift or fall. When securing is necessary, lower the lift arms, shut off the engine, climb out, chain the load in place, climb back in the cab, start the loader and proceed with the job.
  • Lift loads slowly and evenly to keep the loader stable.
  • Carry loads close to the ground, yet high enough to clear obstacles. When a load is carried too high, skid steer loaders are more likely to tip. It is especially important to carry the load as low as possible when turning, carrying a heavy load, traveling on a slope or operating on rough surfaces.
  • Keep the attachment level while moving lift arms or driving up and down hills, otherwise the load could shift and make the loader out of balance.
  • Operate at a speed that is appropriate for conditions so you don’t lose control of the loader.
  • Operate the controls smoothly to prevent jerking or bucking.
  • Operate on level, stable surfaces. Load, unload and turn on solid, level ground.
  • Drive up and down hills, not across them. Drive slowly on slopes.
  • Keep the heavy end of the loader pointed uphill. When fully loaded, skid steer loaders should be driven with the load uphill. When unloaded, the rear of the loader is heavier, so the back of an empty loader should be pointed uphill. If you are not sure which end is heaviest because of added attachments, check the operator’s manual.
  • Do not make sharp turns on hills or the loader may roll over. Stay away from steep hills entirely. The operator’s manual defines the maximum slope for your loader.
  • Avoid holes, large bumps, soft spots and weak floors. All can make the loader unstable.
  • If you must cross railroad tracks, ditches, curbs or similar rough surfaces, cross at an angle and drive slowly.
  • Stay away from steep edges on loading docks, ramps, ditches, retaining walls and near trenches; otherwise you could fall over the edge or the bank could cave in.

Courtesy of K-State Research and Extension, www.oznet.ksu.edu.