Every day workers operate heavy equipment and machinery; trucks, forklifts, and cranes are used to move heavy loads on many worksites. All operators must receive proper training and demonstrate the ability to operate the equipment and machinery safely; this includes communication between the equipment operator and the ground crew. Proper communication can increase the efficiency and productivity of a task. Good communication and the ability to guide a truck, a forklift, or a crane are essential on every work site. Improper signaling can cause property damage and serious injury or death.

Discussion Points:
• Improper signaling can cause property damage and serious injury or death;
• Know the signals; never assume everyone knows the signals;
• Only one person may give signals at any time;
• What is the most common method of signaling?
• Follow company safety rules and procedures when working around heavy equipment.

An operator of heavy equipment should move loads according to the established code of signals and use a signaler. A signaler may be required by law if the operator’s view of the intended path of travel of the load is obstructed. OSHA requires that a signaler meet certain qualifications; the operator and signaler should be trained and demonstrate their ability to perform the task; it should never be assumed that everyone knows the signals or that the operator can hear commands. During the operation of equipment that requires signaling, only one person may give signals at any time; if the ability to transmit signals between the operator and the signaler is interrupted, the operator must stop all operations until the transmission is restored.

The type and transmission of signals must be appropriate for the work environment and include hand, voice, and audible signals. The most common method of signaling is the Standard Method for Hand Signals, required by OSHA. A hand signal chart must be posted on or near the equipment. Audio signals are distinct sounds that are part of the safety system. They include a backup warning alarm that can be heard by all workers in the area. When working around heavy equipment and machinery, all workers should use appropriate PPE, including high-visibility vests, eye protection, and ear plugs or muffs, which will be determined by the noise levels of the equipment.

The operator and signaler have many responsibilities to ensure the safety of workers and prevent damage to equipment or property. Any misunderstanding or inappropriate behavior may result in damage to the equipment or property and serious injury or death of a worker. It is essential to comply with all OSHA regulations and follow company safety rules and procedures when working around heavy equipment and machinery.

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As always, be safe out there!