10 Things To Do Before Operating a Compact Excavator

Are you aware of all the safety protocols before you operate a compact excavator? There is actually a lot to think about before you dig in. In order to keep you and everyone around you safe, it is important to follow proper excavator safety steps so everyone can go home at the end of the day.

We totally get it, you have been using these machines for a long time. Please keep in mind, they do change. There have been many advances since they were first made with many new safety features that you need to be aware of and how they work. Any good operator will always read the manual of a new machine they have never used before to ensure they are familiar with it.

We have compiled a list of things to do directly from the safety manual. Please note, in now way does this replace the safety manual. If you are ever in doubt about something, refer back to it. Reading and understanding the safety manual is imperative to your safety and those around you.

Here are 10 things to do and consider before operating a compact excavator:

  1. The first thing you want to do is call before you dig. It is your responsibility to call and locate all underground utilities to avoid a costly mistake. A One-Call referral number is 1-888-258-0808 to find the area near you for Canada and US.


Be sure to plan your work area and mark these underground utilities to help avoid hitting them.

It is YOUR responsibility to read and understand the manuals before operating the machine. The key to safety is YOU.

  1. Protect yourself with protective clothing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) based on job conditions. You may need:

– hard hat

– safety boots with non-slip soles

– safety glasses, goggles or face shield

– heavy-duty gloves

– hearing protection

– reflective or high-visibility clothing

– wet weather gear

– respirator or filter mask

Wear whatever is needed to protect yourself – do not take chances.

  1. Know the Rules. Check with your supervisor or safety coordinator. Here are a few rules you must work by:

– Know the limitations and operating characteristics of the compact excavator. Do not overload it.

– Always wear the seat belt, if equipped. If the compact excavator is equipped with a foldable TOPS/ROPS, do not fasten the seat belt when the TOPS/ROPS is in the down position.

– Always have all shields and guards properly installed before operating the machine.

– Inspect the machine and all attachments before each use as specified by the manufacturer and your employer. Ensure the attachment is properly installed.

– Only use parts and attachments that are approved by the original equipment manufacturer.

– Never modify or remove any part of the equipment (except for service – then make sure it is replaced).

– Read and understand all safety signs installed on the machine.

– Know the location of other personnel and machines and make sure they are a safe distance from the machine.

– Know the worksite. Be aware of possible hazards that you may encounter.

– Always look in the direction of the machine or boom movement. Drive facing the travel direction whenever possible.

– Make sure you understand the rules covering traffic at the worksite. Know what all the signs, flags and markings mean.

– Understand hand, flag, horn, whistle, siren and bell signals, if used at the worksite.

– Know when to use lights, turn signals, flashers and horns, if equipped.

-Do not allow riders.

– Keep hands and feet on controls when operating.

– Never lift or swing a load or attachment over anyone.

– Whenever you leave the machine, lower the excavator blade, bucket or other attachments to the ground. Stop the engine. Cycle the hydraulic controls, including auxiliary hydraulic control, to relieve trapped pressure. Engage control lock if equipped and remove ignition key.

– When transporting the compact excavator on a trailer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for loading, tying down and unloading the compact excavator.

5. Know the Equipment. Failure to obey safety instructions could result in death or serious injury.

6. Check the Machine. Before you begin a work day, inspect the machine and have all systems in good operational condition. Do not operate the machine until all problems are corrected. Perform daily service procedures as instructed by the equipment manufacturer.

7. Clean up. Clean windshields, mirrors and all lights. Use water and a clean cloth. Clean the operator’s area. Steps and handholds must be clean and functional. Oil, grass, leaves, needles, snow, ice or mud in these areas can cause you to slip and fall. Clean your boots before getting in the machine. Clean out trash and debris buildup promptly. Remove all loose personal items or other objects from the operator’s compartment.

8. Check the work area. Know beforehand as much about the worksite as possible. Locate all ground workers near the worksite and make sure clothing worn is easily seen. Be aware of weather conditions that can affect visibility, ground stability and traction. Check for:

– location of steep slopes, slide areas, drop-offs and overhands.

-Adequate traction on slopes

– Traffic locations and movement

-Thick dust, smoke and fog.

– Soil conditions – look for signs of instability such as cracks or settlement.

– Standing water and marshy areas

– Rocks and stumps

– holes, obstructions, mud or ice.

– Location of open trenches.

– Exact location of any buried or overhead electrical, gas, telephone, water, sewer or other utility lines.


  1. Mount and Dismount properly.

– Maintain 3 point contact with the machine. Three-point contact is defined as maintaining contact with at least 1 hand and 2 feet or 2 hands and 1 foot, at all times.

– Face the machine when either mounting or dismounting.

– Use handholds, handrails, ladders or steps.

– The upperstructure and undercarriage must be oriented to align the access system.

– Never use control levers as handholds

– Never step on foot controls when entering or leaving.

– Clean your boots and wipe your hands before mounting or dismounting.

– Never jump on or off the machine.

– Never attempt to mount or dismount a moving machine.

– Never mount or dismount while carrying tools or objects that prevent three-point contact.

10. Look out for others. Before starting, walk completely around the machine operating area. Make sure no one is under it, on it or close to it. Do not start the engine until everyone is clear of the operating area.


So what do I do next? We will discuss starting safely and what to check before you operate in our next post.

This entry was posted in Compact Excavator Safety PT1. Bookmark the permalink.

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