Excavators are some of the most common pieces of heavy equipment found in a variety of industries. These machines come in a variety of sizes and styles. There are also a large number of possible buckets and attachments that can be used on hydraulic excavators. Because many companies switch out the attachment on an excavator many of them are equipped with a quick coupler device to easily switch between different attachments or buckets. While these devices are a huge time saver, they can also be a danger.
The Danger of Quick Coupler Devices
It has been known for many years now that quick couplers can pose a danger to ground workers who are working around the excavator. There have been multiple fatalities due to the unexpected release of a bucket due to the quick coupler device opening up or failing. OSHA has addressed these devices in a special 2005 bulletin after fifteen incidents involving unexpected releases occurred in a seven year span. While fifteen incidents were reported to OSHA it is plausible that many more similar incidents occurred that resulted in near misses and were not reported to OSHA.
Best Practices to Avoid Unexpected Releases While Using Quick Coupler Devices
The prevalence of these incidents have been reduced thanks to manufacturers producing better designs for these devices as well as safety measures that have been retrofitted to make earlier models safer to use. Most manufacturers of these devices have come up with some type of locking pins that do not allow for an unexpected release. However, not all employers have switched over to the safer models of these devices and incidents can still occur if the safety devices are not installed correctly or maintained.
Some other best practices to follow to avoid unexpected release incidents include:
- Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for installation, maintenance, and use for these devices.
- Inspect quick coupler devices prior to use. Look for locking pins or other safety devices that will prevent an unexpected release of a bucket or attachment. Ensure both the device as well as the safety devices are properly installed and functioning.
- Never allow ground personnel to work directly under or close to an excavator bucket or attachment, even if there are safety pins in the quick coupler device. Avoiding the line of fire ensures that even if something does fail no one will be in the area where the bucket lands.
- Train employees to recognize the hazards of these devices.
- Communicate to fellow coworkers when quick coupler devices are used so they are aware of the additional hazard while working around the excavator.
While the prevalence of these incidents have been greatly reduced through better design, unexpected releases can still occur. Take the necessary steps to ensure that these devices are properly functioning. Protect ground workers further by forbidding any work to be done underneath or near the bucket of an excavator. Discussion point: Has anyone ever experienced an incident involving a quick coupler device?