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Heavy Construction Equipment Needs Special Attention in Colder Weather

November 18, 2015
 / Safety / , / Equipment / 


While you’re worried about keeping your employees warm and safe during winter construction work, there’s another part of your job site that requires extra attention.

Your construction equipment shouldn’t be left out in the cold either.

Prolonged exposure to cold or freezing (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures can cause frostbite, trench foot, or hypothermia in humans, but it can also wreak havoc on your company’s (often very expensive) equipment.

Train your workers on how to properly protect themselves from the elements, but also train them on how to maintain and operate equipment during these more dangerous periods.

OSHA provides a toolbox talk on how to operate machinery in cold weather, which can be found in the HCSS Safety app.

First, all operators should read and understand any and all Operation and Maintenance manuals provided with the equipment. All machinery should be maintained per its Operation and Maintenance Manual at all times, but especially in extreme temperatures. If you have HCSS Safety construction safety software or Equipment360 Mobile Mechanic construction equipment maintenance software, these documents can be attached to work orders from the field.

If possible, heavy construction equipment should be stored in enclosed storage facilities when not in use in order to guard against the elements. Block heaters are also effective, as they warm up the engine in preparation for starting the machinery, allowing it to start more easily and warm up more quickly.

If shut down for 16 or more hours, any engine will cool to the external temperature of the air around it, making it much more difficult to start an piece of machinery that has been idle for more than a day in cold temperatures.

Operators and heavy equipment maintenance workers should be sure to install the correct lubricants for the machinery and the weather and to inspect all rubber parts – hoses, tires, fan drive belts – weekly, as rubber will become softer in cold weather. Connections and wiring should also be checked weekly for any fraying or for damaged insulation.

The correct cooling system protection for the current working conditions is also important, as it takes great energy for a large piece of machinery to heat up and cool down repeatedly throughout the length of a job.

All batteries should be fully charged on all equipment, and it’s also a good idea to refill fuel tanks at the end of each shift. Air filters and air intake should also be checked on a regular basis, as filters can easily become clogged when snow is present. However, if snow packing occurs, do not remove the air cleaner element, as this can cause severe engine damage. Instead, rework the air intake so that air is taken in under the hood.

Remember, always maintain your machine per its Operation and Maintenance Manual, and perform a walk-around inspection before and after every shift to mitigate most safety issues.

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