Last week was a happy time for us. We took delivery of our new Kubota 1.7MT excavator. It’s arrival (and accompanying baby photos on Facebook) generated a few inquiries about licencing or training requirements to operate one of these beauties.
It’s easy to see what these excavators are so popular: they are usually within the towing capability of most 4WD’s or large cars and are surprising easy to manoeuvre. Of course your vehicle must be suitable for towing 2400kg and have a suitably rated towbar. The controls (based on two joysticks, two track control levers and a couple of other auxiliary controls) of these diggers are very intuitive, and it only takes 10 – 15 minutes practice for most new operators to gain the rudimentary skills necessary to move simple mounds of dirt.
Surprisingly the new Health & Safety at Work Act places no specific prescriptive requirements on private users. If you employ one or more people to help you with your project, then the regulations health and safety laws apply and apply strictly. But private users, carrying out landscaping or earth moving on their own property, appear to be exempt from a lot of the legal requirements.
But you’d be an absolute bloody mug to ignore the guidelines published in the Worksafe ‘Excavation Safely’ Good Practice Guidelines. The Worksafe guidelines, along with a decent dose of common sense, will reduce the risk of doing harm to yourself or anyone around you, or the work area.
We strongly recommend that excavator users read the Worksafe guidelines first, but here’s our summary of the key points.
- Before starting, take time to identify any hazards, assess the risks and work out how you might control them to prevent anyone getting hurt or property getting hurt.
- Observe your surroundings. Clearly identify and avoid any underground or overhead services such as plumbing or overhead powerlines.
- Control the work zone. It’s not covered in the Worksafe guidelines but we strongly recommend working with an exclusion zone of 8 meters when using the excavator (No one should be allowed within the exclusion zone while the engine is running). It’s got an on / off switch and a start motor. Use them.
- Ensure there is safe access in and out of the work zone.
- Always carry out any excavations with the tracks in the fully extended position, and always wear the seatbelt.
- Never excavate near buildings or foundations, and never assume the ground close to excavations will support the weight of the excavator.
- Limit the depth to which you intend to excavate. Any excavation to 1.5m depth requires an operator with recent experience in carrying out or supervising work. Beyong 1.5m depth and you’ll need to show some evidence of training. There is always a serious risk of excavations failing, and it can happen in the blink of an eye.
Carrying our excavations is a potentially dangerous, so if you are unfamiliar with the principles of shoring, bench or batter back we strongly recommend you pay an expert to do the job.
There’s a lot to think about. If you are unfamiliar with the Worksafe guidelines, please have a read before starting any excavation (go to our website https://www.upperhutthire.co.nz/health-and-safety/) or talk to an expert. These excavators are great machines in the right hands, but please please please be mindful of the potential risks.