Grapple trucks are a very useful piece of equipment in the forest and are used extensively for lifting and transporting heavy timber; however, the function of these vehicles does not end here, as they are easily adapted to many different tasks, making them one of the most in demand forestry service vehicles. There are inherent risks and dangers during operation which can be minimized or even prevented by using proper safety precautions. Following are a few reminders for using these vehicles in the woods.
Improper use of a grapple loader on a job site can cause serious injuries or even fatalities. Listed below are some precautionary measures that should be fully understood before operating this equipment.
- Manufacturer’s Manual – Read and understand this manual, paying close attention to safety alert symbols.
- Inspection – Fully inspect the hydraulic system of the grapple and check the boom for any leaks, potential damage from previous use, or missing/non-functioning components to avoid boom failure.
- Repairs – Perform necessary repairs prior to operation.
- Clear Area – Ensure everyone in the vicinity is away from the machine during operation.
- Proper Speed – When hauling a load, gradually increase and maintain the speed of the vehicle so the load does not swing to prevent a tip over mishap. Keep the load as low as possible for proper visibility and rotational clearance.
- Ground Conditions – Be conscious when performing tasks on hills, rocky ground, or loose fill surfaces as these machines are more prone to tip over accidents in such areas.
- Avoid Sudden Stops – Refrain from sudden stops or jarring of the boom when hauling material to avoid loss of control.
Following are the three ‘P’s’ that need to be considered for the safe operation of these vehicles.
- Preliminary Inspection – Prior to starting the engine, conduct an inspection of the vehicle and work site. This must be done to prevent accidents when lifting logs. Be sure the engine and controls are fully functional and there are no signs of failure. Any work site should be assessed for the presence of any hazards, such as branches that block visibility and workers in the area. Ensure the grapple grips the timber completely to avoid slipping. Check the hydraulic outriggers to ensure of fully engagement for stability when the logs are lifted onto the truck bed.
- Personnel Training – Different types of heavy-duty equipment should not be used by untrained personnel to ensure that jobs are done accurately, efficiently, and safely. Accidents can happen if these vehicles are used by people lacking the proper knowledge on how to handle them. Every driver must have the right training and know how to correctly use them correctly for personal safety.
- Personal Protective Equipment – The risk of exposure to forest hazards on the job site must also be addressed. The primary line of defense against such risks is using personal protective equipment. The benefits include minimizing risks and boosting personal protection. The use of PPE in the forest is only effective when trained workers know how to accurately choose, maintain, and use it.
Grapple trucks are a specialized type of knuckleboom that is very efficient – not only in lifting logs, but in performing various other applications. With more functions because of their versatility and efficiency, it is only natural that certain risks and dangers associated with usage will also increase. There are certain safety rules and practices that must be followed; if not strictly applied on the work site, fatal accidents and serious injuries can result. Employers must offer training about the proper use of these machines and operators should be properly acquainted with safety procedures while using the equipment that includes: reading the manual; conducting preliminary inspections; assessing the work environment; and wearing PPE. By instituting such practices in the forest, a forestry company can certainly achieve an end goal of safety and financial stability!