As all-purpose work vehicles are becoming more common on construction sites, learning a few simple steps that could prevent a worksite accident involving these utility vehicles is more important than ever. Safe operation of worksite utility vehicles ensures a crew returns from a well-done job unharmed and prevents costly repairs to the vehicle fleet itself. Here are six ways to eradicate pitfalls involving UTV operation from your jobsite.
Improper vehicle loading can have dangerous repercussions for both the crew and vehicle. Make sure to account for the weight of the passengers in the vehicle, in addition to the cargo weight, when calculating the vehicle’s payload weight. To be clear, if a vehicle has a 1,500-pound payload capacity, the crew should not be filling the bed with 1,500 pounds of material. The weight of the passengers—sometimes upwards of a third of the payload capacity, needs to be accounted for. An overloaded vehicle puts pressure on the UTV’s suspension. A vehicle can bottom out when in transit and break the axles. This can possibly eject the passengers in the process.
Distractions among UTV operators, especially the use of cell phones, texting, and even two-way radios while driving, can cause all sorts of problems. It only takes a moment of distraction while checking a communication device to overlook a pothole or passerby. Eliminating these distractions will help ensure UTV operators are alert for potential hazards while in transit.
A simple walk-around inspection of the vehicle every morning before work begins is a quick and easy process, but it occurs less often than you’d think. Catching a vehicle issue that needs attention before the workday has begun is worth the quick daily inspection. It will potentially save thousands of dollars in repairs if an issue can be caught before it’s made worse. Things to check for include a clean windshield, headlights, and brake lights, properly-working dump bed—whether it’s automatic or manual—and tire issues.
Taillights, brake lights, reverse alarms, horn, and strobe lights—any accessories that alert others that a UTV is in operation nearby—are nominal additions that can help keep everyone safe. An obvious must for nighttime work, these alert accessories are even worthwhile in the morning fog or at worksites with tall grass that might shield a vehicle from plain view. Quiet-running electric UTVs can benefit greatly from these additional lights.
Protection systems vary in type. A Rollover Protection System (ROPS) used in conjunction with a seatbelt prevents a passenger from being injured in the event of a rollover. An Occupant Protection System (OPS) protects passengers in the utility vehicle from being injured when a vehicle tips over on its side and a Falling Object Protection System (FOPS) prevents falling objects from injuring passengers. It acts a lot like a hard hat for the vehicle. Most utility vehicles available today are not FOPS-certified without an upgrade, but it’s a critical investment for large construction sites.
A limited-slip differential is a feature offered on some UTVs that shortens a vehicle’s stopping distance and can prevent the vehicle from sliding into something it shouldn’t.
Safe vehicle operation is mostly about awareness. In addition to following these steps, always read the vehicle’s owner’s manual and understand its warnings and safety guidelines. Do that and any crew will be on their way to a safe workday. ■
About the Author:
Joel Stevens is the director of product strategy for commercial at E-Z-GO. He focuses on E-Z-GO’s industrial and commercial products under the Cushman brand. He drives the Cushman product roadmap and works closely with R&D to ensure that the product strategy aligns with development and marketing.
Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2014
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