Ontivity Resources

SPOTTING FOR HEAVY EQUIPMENT

New Braunfels, TX, March 27, 2024

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Most construction sites rely on a variety of heavy machinery, equipment, and vehicles to get the job done. A spotter is essential to safe operations in our workplace when using equipment like aerial lifts, earthmovers, and more. Having the proper training and experience is critical when it comes to heavy equipment operation, but the use of a spotter is just as important during heavy equipment operations.  Even the most skilled operators need assistance from a spotter when they are moving heavy equipment, around a worksite, even when you are just getting it out of the way really quick.  Heavy equipment can have blind spots preventing us from seeing all potential hazards or gauging distance between objects.  The diligent use of a spotter helps prevent workplace incidents.  Today, we will cover three topics related to using a spotter when operating equipment.

  • Always use a spotter when visibility is limited
  • Establish an effective means of communication
  • Stay focused when spotting

ALWAYS USE A SPOTTER WHEN VISIBILITY IS LIMITED

Knowing when to use a spotter is honestly pretty simple. In the upcoming release of Ontivity’s updated Health and Safety policy, the use of a spotter is required anytime heavy equipment is in use for any amount of time and the operational visibility is limited.  At the end of the day, anytime you feel like you need a spotter don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand. This requirement will also extend to the use of a spotter when backing up fleet vehicles where a driver’s visibility is limited.  OSHA also requires the use of a spotter in just about every reference to moving equipment and vehicles.  As I mentioned in the opening statements of today’s call, even the most experienced operator benefits from the use of a spotter.  Having the mindset of, I am just going 15ft, I am good, is the absolute wrong one to have. 

ESTABLISH AN EFFECTIVE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION

Most construction job sites are noisy, and it might be hard for others to hear you.  Before any heavy equipment is moved, you should ensure that any potential spotter and the driver know communications will be handled.  If hand signals are the choice, then ensure everyone is on the same page with which signals mean what.  If using 2-way radios, make sure they are in good operating condition prior to any movement of heavy equipment. You might even consider walking the jobsite so operator and spotter are both aware of the hazards to avoid and areas that will require heightened awareness. No two jobsites are the same so establishing the method of communication during the pre-job meeting is definitely your best shot at avoiding incidents.

STAY FOCUSED WHEN SPOTTING

Not paying attention when spotting is pretty much the same as not spotting at all.  You must take this task just as serious as you would if you were climbing a tower or working in a live electrical panel.  The slightest loss of focus when spotting could lead to a really bad situation.    Do not perform any other duties while you are acting as a spotter. Do not look at a cell phone, wear headphones, chat with a co-worker, or do anything else that could pose a distraction while you are directing the movement of heavy equipment.  You want to make sure you keep constant visual contact with the driver while the vehicle is in motion. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to stop any movement or action if you feel it is unsafe or if you feel the driver has become disengaged with you.  The spotter has just as much of a say in, and responsibility for the safe operations on all worksites. 

Today’s call primarily referenced heavy equipment, but the use of a spotter can be applied in many of the tasks we do on a daily basis.  Tasks like excavating and backing into a parking spot are just a couple examples.  One last statement before we close today is, when spotting make sure that you keep yourself out of the line of fire and are on the lookout for changing conditions. There are many moving parts in our workplace and just because a pallet wasn’t along your path during your planning, doesn’t mean someone didn’t put one there afterwards.  Most people think that being a spotter is an easy job, but I hope that no one walks away from our call today with that feeling.  Spotters are a critical piece of our Zero Harm philosophy, and we hope when you are assigned the task you take it seriously!

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

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