Safety is especially important on the farm or ranch, as it not only protects your livestock, but also your machine operators and family. Equipment damage and accidents can mean potential injury, reduced production, decreased performance and lost revenue. In agriculture, four factors are particularly important to consider regarding skid steer loader safety: visibility, the exhaust system, emergency and everyday operation safety features.
1. Enhanced Visibility Is Essential on the Farm
Today’s advanced skid steer loaders are equipped with visibility enhancing features that help prevent injury to nearby workers and livestock. They also help minimize damage to buildings, fences, pens and the machine itself. Some of these include:
Narrow lift arms that reduce blind spots.
Window surfaces that extend all the way to the floor of the cab, allowing you to see clearly out of both sides of the machine. They also provide a clear view of the machine’s wheels and surrounding terrain.
Rearview mirrors that provide a panoramic view of the rear and sides of the machine.
Rearview cameras that allow operators to be fully aware of their 360-degree surroundings without having to turn their head.
2. Exhaust Systems Designed for Accident and Injury Prevention
Many older model skid steer loaders and several current makes are equipped with exhaust systems that direct exhaust to exit out of the machine from the side and rear. It is easy to imagine the injury and damage this can cause, as these extremely hot exhaust fumes can harm people or livestock standing near the machine. They can also ignite airborne debris such as hay, bedding, feed and silage.
With the close working quarters on today’s farms, it is important to find a skid steer loader with an exhaust system that cools the engine exhaust gas and directs it up and away from ground level. All air flow should exit the machine vertically exit the machine vertically rather than to the side or rear to avoid disturbing or harming people or animals.
3. Safety Features to Protect the Operator in the Event of an Emergency
In the event of an unexpected engine shut down, it is important to have more than one method of lowering the lift arms so the operator can safely exit the machine. Hydraulic accumulators can allow the operator to lower the loader arms if electrical power is available and the accumulator is charged. If the accumulator is not charged or if there is no electrical power, a dead engine lower valve allows the operator to manually lower the arms so the operator can safely exit.
4. Improving Safety During Everyday Operations
On today’s advanced skid steer loaders, safety features activate before the engine is even turned on—starting with the operator presence system, which requires the operator to be in the machine with the arm bars lowered before the engine will start. Once the engine is started, the parking brake will remain set and the hydraulic system locked out until you depress a switch to activate the machine. Additionally, a spring-applied hydraulic release parking brake will engage and lock the hydraulics out automatically when the arm bars are raised or when the engine is not running.
Fully sealed and pressurized cabs equipped with an air filtration system can help minimize inhalation of contaminants and dust that mix in with the air during everyday operations. These cabs are also quieter, which allows operators to focus on the tasks at hand and reduces their fatigue at the end of a long day.
Bottom line: Skid steer loaders should always be equipped with proper safety features to ensure operator and machine safety. This is why it’s a good idea to research the latest safety guidelines, procedures and feature advancements when spec’ing or purchasing a new machine.
To learn more about safety on the farm or ranch and the latest safety features available on today’s advanced skid steer loaders visit Cat Resource Center or contact your local Cat® dealer.
We’d like to hear more about how you manage skid steer loader safety on the farm or ranch.
Do you currently own or operate a skid steer loader? If so, which safety features on your current machine(s) do you find especially important?
Are you considering purchasing a skid steer loader? If so, which safety features are most essential for your operation?
Have you ever brought in an equipment dealer or manufacturer to provide safety training?
Do you find safety training videos helpful?
Do you have a preference on video length? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? 60 minutes?
Would you be interested in online safety training for your employees?
I’m an Attachments Product Application & Sales Support Specialist for Caterpillar in North America. I have been with Caterpillar for five years including roles in the field as a dealer sales support representative and marketing support in the skid steer and small wheel loader product groups. I graduated from Iowa State University with degrees in Agricultural Business and Economics. Our goal is to provide a full portfolio of attachments for our customers to be more productive and versatile with their machines.
I am a Pre-Field Agriculture/Product Application Representative for Caterpillar. I recently graduated from North Carolina State University with a dual degree in Agriculture Business Management and Agriculture Science, concentrating in Leadership and Environmental Technologies. I focus primarily on the relationships between customers, dealers, and the product specialists for the Building Construction Products division. Growing up on a beef cattle farm, I have several years of machine operation experience and agricultural knowledge. Thomas Jefferson said it best in that, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."
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