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The Accident: A 34-year-old landscape worker operates a mini-excavator horizontally on an uneven, muddy slope of a residential neighborhood where a crew is installing a pool. When he drives too close to the edge of a drop-off, the excavator slips and tips onto its side, and pins him underneath. The equipment crushes both of his legs, and he suffers multiple cuts and lacerations.

The Bottom Line: The worker should not have operated the excavator across a slope, and the muddy conditions and uneven terrain contributed to the danger. In addition, his serious injuries may have been prevented if he had worn his seatbelt..

Follow these reccomendations to reduce your risk of a serious accident:

  • Never operate equipment if you are impaired by medications (prescription & over-the-counter medications), drugs or alcohol./li>
  • Plan before you dig.This includes calling ahead regarding overhead and underground utilities, along with evaluating terrain & slope.
  • Check the work area for location of steep slopes, slide areas, drop-offs and overhangs.
  • Wear appropriate personal safety equipment including high-visibility clothing, work boots, gloves, hard hat, safety glasses, hearing protection and a respirator or filter mask if needed.
  • Avoid travelling across a slope; always travel up and down the incline. Make sure there is adequate traction on slopes.
  • Create a level work area if you need to operate in a cross-slope direction.
  • Lower the blade to provide additional stability for the machine.
  • Properly enter and exit machine; use grab handles, steps or safety tread.
  • Never modify equipment or remove the tip-over or roll-over protective structure.
  • Keep the heavy end of the machine pointed uphill on slopes.
  • Keep loads as low as possible.
  • Never exceed the rated lift capacity.
  • Always fasten your seatbelt.

- Carolyn Mason, Total Landscape Care, September 2010