You do not always get to run your excavator on a smooth, straight, and consistent terrain. Sometimes, you find yourself dealing with hills, holes, steep edges, or dirt piles on construction sites. Operating an excavator (on any other machine) in that situation can be a different experience. But not to worry, you can get some helpful tips in this article.
Article by KEP Services for Caterpillar Parts UK.
Why Is Slope Important When Operating An Excavator?
The slope is crucial n excavation operations for two primary reasons: the center of gravity and lubrication. The center of gravity is not always constant; it shifts as the machine turns sideways. The risk of tipping is even higher for steeper slopes. You want to avoid the extreme dangers of tipping a machine as large as an excavator down a hill.
Lubrication also plays a vital role in an excavation operation—oil, fuel, and lubrication all shift as the excavator engine shifts and turns on a slope. The holding containers for lubrication differ across excavator models. The engine may struggle to use the liquids if the tilt is too much, leading to failure or damage.
But you can avoid these situations with these five things you should know when operating an excavator on a slope or incline.
1. Assess the physical features of the hill.
The integrity of a hill depends on many things, including loose rocks, mud, ice, melting snow, and even rain. Despite passing the 70% rule assessment, a large machine like an excavator may be at the risk of slipping or shifting under its weight when operated on unstable terrain. You can wait a few days for bad weather to clear out and only proceed to work when the conditions are better. Alternatively, if you are dealing with loose debris, you can clear the space to ensure safety.
2. Use the right excavator.
You must always use the right machine when working on a slope. Interestingly, there are different models and designs of excavators; all made for specific use. For example, it is best to use a long-reach excavator for slopes and angled digging. This ensures the stability of the main machine while the extra-long digging arm deals with the hill. You do not have to buy a long-reach excavator – they are available for short-term leases. You may also consider spider excavators if you want to get into odd spaces in very unusual terrains.
3. Always use the 70% rule.
Do not use an excavator on a slope of over 70%. The 70% slope grade is the same as a 35-degree angle. If you are unsure of the slope of a hill, you can consult the surveyor on your team or hire one for that purpose. The surveyor can use the hill’s top and bottom elevation to determine the rise of the hill. In some cases, the hill may be too steep for consideration. In that case, look for the site plans or measure the slope to ensure it is safe to work on the site.
4. Pay attention to equipment positioning
The front attachment of your machine must always be out and low to the ground when driving up a slope. That is the only way to maintain a low center of gravity. In the case of an excavator, the boom can help with balanced weight distribution. Balancing the weight of an excavator is easier when driving up a slope compared to sideways across it.
5. Only operate when you are comfortable.
Ultimately, you must be knowledgeable and experienced to use an excavator on a slope. Whenever you are uncertain or uncomfortable about operations, do not proceed. Instead, reassess the situation or seek experts’ advice before trying out something new. You are dealing with a 20-ton machine – that’s three elephants, a whale shark, and a loaded coach bus. Imagine what it would be like to have a whale shark falling on top of you. Disastrous, right? So, you must be careful to prevent an excavator from tipping over you.
Operating An Excavator Safely On A Slope
You cannot always avoid operating on slopes. That said, you must ensure due diligence and safety at all times. Assess the terrain you want to work on, use the right equipment, stick to the 70% rule, and pay attention to the positioning. With these, you can make your slope operations safe and smooth. Remember, you can always say no when you have even the slightest doubt. It is safety before anything else.