Significant Hazards of Using Excavators on Construction Sites

I have spoken to many “would-be” plant operators who have stated that they have been driving the machines, or had a practice, or used the machine to do a small job because the driver was not around, and the keys were in the ignition.

What I would like to suggest to Employers on Construction Sites, or self-employed operators of these machines is to review the work undertaken, and carry out an appropriate Risk Assessment, specifically on Excavators. Obviously the Risk Assessment should be for all machines, but I will concentrate on helping you with the Excavator, be it a 360 or a 180 wheeled or tracked machine.

Firstly as part of the programme you look at who would be affected, and that would be the driver/operator; other workers; members of the public.

Driving Excavators

The Significant Hazards would be – inexperienced or untrained staff operating the machine could lead to accidents on site resulting in personal injury and machine damage.

The Control Measures would be –

” Only trained staff be allowed to operate the excavators

” Work using the Excavators must be planned to reduce accidents

” The work using the Excavator carried out to the specific risk assessment undertaken for the particular jobs/site where the machine is being used

A Significant Hazard would be – Driving the excavator at speed over rough terrain, uneven surfaces, which could lead to the machine overturning.


The Control Measures would be –

” As part of the original Site Assessment – speed limits would be imposed

” Machine driven at slow speed on uneven or unstable ground

” Seat Belts to be worn at all times by drivers

” The appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

A Significant Hazard would be – using an excavator for undertaking work other than digging, which could lead to it overturning or mechanical failure.

The Control Measures would be –

” Excavators should only be used to the Manufacturers Handbook (intended purposes)

” Only planned site work undertaken as per Job Specification

A Significant Hazard would be – Using incorrect attachments or failure to secure the Quick-Hitch pin.

The Control Measures would be –

” Only use specific attachments as per Manufacturers Handbook

” All attachments be properly secured (as above)

” Operator Training, to include the methods for fitting attachments

A Significant Hazard would be – Operating the Excavator too close to the edge of trenches, which may cause them to collapse and the Excavator overturn.

The Control Measures would be –

” Operators to be trained, so that they only operate the machine at a safe distance from any un-shored trenches. Specific care should be taken with shored trenches also

” Operators to ensure that the ground around trenches is capable of withstanding the machine weight

” Do not operate the Excavator around trenches whilst others are working in them

A Significant Hazard would be – Digging without plans, as buried services may cause damage to gas, water mains and electric cables.

The Control Measures would be –

” Not undertake excavation work until service plans from the utility companies have been obtained and service routes have been marked out

” Where the presence of electricity cables is likely, then the area to be checked with Cable Location Equipment “CAT & Genny scanners”

A Significant Hazard would be – Parking the Excavator with the Jib Arm raised, and leaving the keys in the ignition, which would leave the vehicle open to use by untrained and unskilled operators, resulting in possible injury.

The Control Measures would be –

” All excavators to be parked by the operators in the designated parking area

” Operators to remove the keys from the machine and keep them, or put them in a designated area on Site

” The machines to be parked with their jib arm lowered to the ground

As with all Risk Assessments with every site, operations change, so Specific Risk Assessments should be monitored and changed in accordance with Site Plans.

What I am looking at in helping with the Risk Assessments and ideas, is to ensure you have a Safe Working Environment for all involved with your day to day Business. Also by keeping you updated, and ensuring you take responsibility for your Working Environment, ensures that you are not on the “Wrong Side of the Law” and your workers can go home to their families at the end of each working day.