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Safer ways to use rented equipment

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Most contractors have a wide array of equipment. Some of it is used on nearly every job, while some pieces may be hauled out only occasionally for specific needs. Then there are those projects that call for something that used so rarely it doesn’t make sense to own one, or that are large enough that the need is bigger than the contractor’s inventory.

Fortunately, there are companies that rent equipment from specialized hand tools to large earthmovers. Renting equipment for the duration of the project or the task can provide a cost-effective option for the contractor.

However, using rented equipment can also provide safety challenges for the people working with it. They may be not be as familiar with how the equipment should be used or may not recognize the hazards it presents on a jobsite. That’s why it’s important to give additional attention to safety-related issues. This article will examine areas to consider.

The right equipment

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to match the equipment, size, and capabilities with the specific needs of the task to be performed. That involves conducting some research to ensure that the right equipment is chosen, and that it can handle the task. Trying to get by with equipment that’s either too large or too small could create an increased risk for damage or injury.

The right vendor matters, too. You want to be certain that the vendor shares your standards for worker safety and equipment maintenance. A vendor who cuts corners or doesn’t maintain safety equipment properly will put your team at risk.  In addition, a poorly maintained piece of equipment is more likely to break down, creating delays.

If your crews are responsible for picking up the equipment from the vendor’s location, make sure they follow the specified procedures for loading, securing, and transporting it. That includes verifying that your truck or trailer has the capacity to carry and move it safely.

Take time for training

Construction equipment can seem to be simple, but in reality, much of it involves highly complex systems and devices, and they can vary dramatically depending upon the manufacturer. Even if a worker is familiar with a general type of earthmover, for example, he may not know how the controls used by a particular maker may function. For safe operation, workers also need to know about load limits, capacity, and other factors.

That’s why you should never assume that a rented piece of equipment can begin working immediately. You need to set time aside for workers to receive adequate training in features, operations, and any specific safety issues. Giving employees the ability to read operating manuals or watch training videos in advance is one way to streamline the process.

Inspect it carefully

Never assume that rented equipment is in perfect shape, even if you have a good history with the rental vendor. It’s always possible that the last user damaged the equipment, or that some part may need maintenance. That’s why you should perform a thorough inspection before each use, checking everything from hydraulic hoses, to fluid levels, to safety appliances such as backup alarms. If any part of the equipment is deficient, don’t use it until it has been repaired.

Follow safety instructions

Each piece of equipment includes specific safety instructions and/or devices. It’s always important to follow the right procedures, but that’s especially true when your workers may not be as familiar with the type or manufacturer. From wearing a seat belt to knowing how to move safely through a jobsite, crews must become familiar with the right way to work. That includes wearing any specified personal protective equipment.

When using the equipment on the jobsite, stay aware of surroundings and other workers. That’s particularly true when equipment has components such as booms that can damage nearby objects or come into contact with power lines.

Remember that equipment should only be used for the tasks for which it has been designed. It may be tempting to take a shortcut, such as using an excavator to hoist a large object that’s better suited for a crane, but that can be dangerous, as can exceeding the load limits.

Hire an expert

Finally, if your team lacks the knowledge and experience to use a particular piece of rental equipment, you may want to consider bringing an experienced operator on the site on a temporary basis. While you may be hesitant about the added labor cost, you’ll probably make up for it in greater efficiency, reduced downtime, and fewer potential problems.