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The construction industry in the US accounts for a little over 4% of the country’s total GDP. It is also one of the most dangerous industries, with the second-largest number of fatalities recorded in 2021, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Construction equipment is a significant investment. New, medium-to-large bulldozers can easily cost from $300,000 to two million dollars depending on their features and size, and an excavator can go over $500,000, considering additional attachments. And that’s only the equipment: owning and operating costs must consider aspects such as taxes, labor, fuel, replacement tires, etc. Even second-hand equipment can be on the expensive side, which is another key reason to making sure everything is well-oiled and moving as it should. Selling a high-quality vehicle can fetch a good price for those who choose to do so.
So, what happens when you don’t take the necessary precautions? Breakdowns occur either due to the combination of unaddressed issues or the buildup of a simple failure that eventually impacts the equipment more severely. This leads to downtime and delays in operations, something that is fatal for any business’ schedule and budget, the latter especially considering additional costs derived from repairs, idling equipment, and possible additional purchases for new parts or replacements. However, in the big scheme of things, downtime could be the best-case scenario compared to other consequences such as:
- Hydraulic system leaks: neglecting hydraulic system maintenance can result in leaks or ruptures in hydraulic hoses, fittings, or seals. This not only damages the equipment but can also create slip hazards on the job site. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 46.2% of all fatal falls, slips, and trips reported in 2021 were associated with the construction industry, although primarily from falling from heights.
- Structural failures: inadequate maintenance of structural components, such as booms, buckets, or arms, can weaken the integrity of the equipment. This can lead to catastrophic operational failures, posing a significant risk to the operator and those nearby. Struck-by cases in this industry are usually fatal and commonly involve vehicles such as trucks and cranes.
- Accidental equipment activations: lack of maintenance in safety interlocks or control mechanisms can result in unintentional activations or unexpected equipment movements, endangering nearby workers by potentially crushing, running over, or catching them in between the vehicle and a solid structure.
Workers’ safety in the construction industry is a vital aspect that should never be overlooked or neglected. The very nature of construction work already makes for a risky environment, with possible accidents just waiting to happen at any time. Prevention is, therefore, the best course of action. For heavy equipment, regular cleaning and daily revisions conducted by an expert eye can identify signs of potential damage, but a thorough, scheduled maintenance checkup is a must to ensure both safety and budget savings. Some aspects that should be considered when performing these inspections are:
- Clean internal and external parts and surfaces: internal parts such as filters, valves, pistons, and fuel injectors can become clogged or coated with deposits, leading to issues like rough idling, poor acceleration, overheating, and engine misfires. The presence of dirt and debris can cause increased friction and wear, potentially resulting in premature component failure. Externally, using appropriate cleaning methods, including power washing, brushing, and wiping down surfaces, could help prevent the accumulation of corrosive or damaging materials that could hinder proper functioning.
- Assess safety and security equipment: brakes, belts, ROPS, FOPS, mirrors, guards, and operator cabs all contribute to the safety of the driver and those working in the equipment perimeter and must always be in working order. Warning devices—such as lights, horns, and alarms—, as well as cameras, fire suppression systems, and emergency stop controls must be operational at all times. Performing a thorough check of these components can mean saving someone from injury or death.
- Check electrical and smart systems: faulty wiring and damaged components can result in equipment malfunctions, electric shocks to operators, or even fires and explosions. Untested batteries and charging systems can lead to unexpected breakdowns and operation halts. Failure to maintain smart components, such as sensors, controllers, and data communication systems, can cause communication breakdowns, loss of control, and reduced operational efficiency. Inaccurate diagnostics from neglected diagnostic systems can make it challenging to identify problems. Overall, poorly maintained components of this nature can decrease vehicle efficiency and performance, affecting fuel consumption, emissions control, and productivity while increasing operating costs.
- Document and record: keeping detailed maintenance records, including dates, tasks performed, and parts replaced, can help track the equipment’s history, identify patterns, plan future maintenance tasks, and budget effectively.
- Rely on professionals: when in doubt, ask an expert! Follow the recommendations of the manufacturer to maintain and protect equipment and parts. It is always good to establish a relationship with a reputable equipment maintenance provider or hire an in-house team of skilled technicians to address issues as soon as they arise. Another key aspect to consider is providing proper training, ensuring workers follow best practices, procedures, safety measures, and operating guidelines. Training will also help operators to identify functionality issues on time.
- Check and test lubricants and fluids: insufficient lubrication can lead to increased friction, overheating, premature wear, reduced performance, increased fuel consumption, parts damage, and, ultimately, equipment failure. Fluids such as engine oil, hydraulic oil, and coolant must be regularly tested to identify contamination, clogging, and breakdowns. As these vehicles are constantly subjected to extreme pressure and temperatures, having the right products to account for the needs of the equipment should be a priority to ensure its correct performance and protection. VISCOSITY Oil’s products are the greatest ally when it comes to equipment safety, going above and beyond to account for the requirements of heavy-duty performance and conditions with formulations that can withstand the extremes of construction work.
You know the drill!
VISCOSITY Oil is the trusted partner you need, with over 130 years of innovation formulated especially for your heavy-duty equipment. We don’t take your equipment for granite…we keep it working in fluid motion with optimal protection under ALL stresses! You can find us at your nearest dealership or get the best protection shipped directly to you through our store or partners so you can move fast, fluid, forward with less downtime all year long.
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