Daily wheel loader inspections essential to safe workdays

By |  September 29, 2021
Photo: TolgaMadan/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Check buckets during walk-arounds for signs of wear or cracking. Photo: TolgaMadan/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Wheel loaders regularly take a pounding.

They work in material that wears away the very steel from which they’re built. They lift and carry enormous loads across uneven terrain for hours on end. And they fight dust that’s determined to go places it shouldn’t.

But the burden on wheel loaders is lessened when owners and operators practice proper maintenance. And proper maintenance, ultimately, leads to safer operation.

With all of this in mind, there are a number of considerations operators should make to not only maximize a wheel loader’s uptime, but improve productivity, extend service life and stay safe.

What to watch

A daily wheel loader walk-around inspection, both before and after operation, is an essential part of the day.

Before beginning the workday, operators should check all routine daily items associated with fluids and filters. As with one’s personal health, prevention is the best medicine. So spotting something wrong before beginning work will go a long way to prevent serious issues.

Equally important is the need to pay close attention to machine features that contribute to safety – both for the machine itself and the people working around it. Make sure no unnecessary obstructions impair the operator’s visibility. Check for chips and cracks in windows. Glass should be free of dirt and cleaned frequently, and wiper blades and windshield cleaning fluid levels must be maintained.

In addition, be sure to check lights, rearview cameras, backup alarms and safety belts during pre- and post-operation walk-arounds. Watch for debris accumulation, too. Are steps cleared to prevent slipping? Are handrails clean? Have air vents been cleared to prevent steaming in the cab?

Be sure to focus on wear items, as well. Check ground-engaging tools and buckets during the walk-around for signs of wear or cracking. The post-operation check is often the best time to spot cracks, leaks or other damage that might have occurred during the day.

Safety reminders

Working safely around loaders and excavators is essential. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

• Keep ladders clean. Accidents frequently occur when entering and exiting machines.

• Adjust the seat to your size. If you cannot reach the pedals, then you cannot brake properly. If you have to lean over to reach controls, you may strain muscles or suffer fatigue more quickly.

• Keep items in the cab securely latched. A loose bottle rolling on the floor or across the dash can be distracting and even cause accidents.

• Check for oil leaks. These checks can be done before each shift begins. Operators should also ensure that the machine has been lubricated and that system levels meet a manufacturer’s specified operating levels.

• Check for excessive wear. Inspect bucket teeth, cutting edges and wear plates. Also, look for structural integrity issues on buckets such as weld cracks and overstressed areas.

• Do not vary from a manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. High pressure increases tire spring rate while low pressure increases tire wear and reduces stability.

• Always travel vertically up and down hills – not diagonally. Remember that most wheeled vehicles become unstable when tilted more than 15 percent.

• Maintain clean “floors.” Loose debris increases the chance of a tire being damaged and an accident happening. Maintaining clean, level floors reduces the chance of spilling material and increases productivity.

• Read the manual. Every operator should read the equipment manual before using an unfamiliar piece of equipment. Even experienced operators should occasionally review the manual.

Information for this article was adopted from Pit & Quarry University.

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