Safe utility vehicle operation is always a part of the job when it comes to turf management. From lightweight to heavy duty, you will come across a variety of utility vehicles on the clock. Because workers and working materials are transported every day, it’s imperative to know your way around utility vehicles.
Whether you’re operating a dispenser unit or a tow vehicle, you must know the vehicle’s basic safety and operation functions. The only way to prevent accidents from happening is by educating yourself on vehicle inspection, training expectations, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and passenger safety. Only then will you be ready to safely operate a utility vehicle.
Proper training is essential before operating a new utility vehicle. Before operating any utility vehicle for the first time, make sure you’ve been trained in on each of the following:
- How to inspect the vehicle per OSHA safety standards
- How to charge/refuel the vehicle
- How to drive the vehicle
- How to secure and carry cargo using the vehicle
- And what each of the safety symbols on the dashboard of the vehicle indicate
If you are unsure about any of these items, or if you’re unsure whether you’re using the right utility vehicle for the job, ask your superintendent before operating the vehicle. They will guide you through any holes in your knowledge and assist you in making the safest choices.
As a side note, always confirm that you have every tool you’ll need for the day’s job before you begin. This includes making sure you have all personal protective equipment (PPE) that both the job and the vehicle require. Preparedness is key.
Pre-checking your vehicle
According to OSHA, all vehicles used on the turf must be checked at the beginning of each shift. To comply with OSHA standards, thoroughly check every vehicle to make sure the following parts are free of outward damage and are in safe operating condition:
- All braking systems, including hand brakes, service brakes and emergency brakes
- Seat belts
- Steering mechanism
- Operating controls
- Coupling devices
- And other safety devices
In addition, you’ll also need to check fuel and oil levels, tail and headlight conditions, and check for leaks or visible debris stuck in any part of the vehicle. Safety should always be our utmost priority, and carefully inspecting your vehicle before operation is the best way to keep everyone on the turf safe.
Your responsibility doubles anytime you are carrying a passenger. Passenger safety is literally in your hands. Make sure everyone onboard the utility vehicle is abiding by safety standards, too, namely the use of safety belts.
Let’s get into the specifics of safe operation and safety for passengers. All persons in the vehicle should follow these four rules.
- First, in order to transport passengers, the vehicle must have seats for everyone onboard. The only place a passenger may ride is in a seat, not in a cargo bed or anywhere else on the vehicle. Furthermore, make sure every seat in the vehicle is firmly secured before use. This should be a part of your pre-operation safety check.
- Second of all, every passenger must be buckled up and all cargo secured before driving. Both passengers and the driver must always use their seatbelts. Seatbelts are a part of proper seating allocations—if the vehicle doesn’t have enough seatbelts for everyone onboard, then it is not suitable for transporting passengers.
- Third, take extra care when operating a utility vehicle on a slope or hill, especially when carrying the added weight of passengers or cargo. In order to avoid an overturn accident, maintain a soft angle going up and down all inclines. Always err on the side of caution when deciding if a slope is too harsh to drive up or down. Drive smoothly and slowly when making turns on an incline, too.
- Finally, all passengers and the driver should use three points of contact when stepping in or out of the vehicle. For example, you should instruct your passengers to use both hands and one foot when exiting the vehicle. Offer extra assistance to anyone who needs it.
Operator responsibility is at the heart of utility vehicle safety. Utility vehicles should be seen as tools and never toys. It only takes one oversight to result in an accident or injury. Therefore, it is up to you to prevent utility vehicle accidents before they happen.
Remember to check your vehicle inside and out before use. And come to work prepared with all the training knowledge and necessary PPE before starting a task.
And finally, comply with all OSHA safety standards and take extra care whenever a passenger is onboard a vehicle you’re operating. Utility vehicles can become deadly in an instant if safety standards are ignored or neglected. It’s the choices you make that keep accidents from happening—so buckle up, stay smart and stay safe when operating a utility vehicle this season.