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Blog Machine Upkeep Archive: Safety Walk-Around

Machine Upkeep Archive: Safety Walk-Around

January 11, 2018


By: Garrett Ginglen, Caterpillar Customer Safety Services

Machine upkeep isn’t just about ensuring that your forestry equipment is performing at peak efficiency. Even more important is keeping your machines in top condition so your operators will be safe. A machine walk-around at the beginning of every shift, followed by any repairs or cleaning, is an important safety, as well as maintenance, step.

Think of a safety walk-around inspection in three levels: ground level, machine level and finally the operator cab. You are looking for anything on the machine that might be damaged, loose, missing or faulty in some way. A good habit to get into is to always start the walk-around at the same place.

Picture a skidder for this step-by-step safety walk-around. We start the ground level inspection at the right front wheel. Look for cuts, bulges, any foreign objects in the tire and proper air pressure. Look for cracks, corrosion or other damage at the wheel hub. Next check the wheel lug nuts. Are they all there? Do any of them appear to be loose? A good way to tell if the lug is loose is to look for paint missing or rust forming around the lug.

After the right front tire we move to the front and inspect the front axle, looking for leaks or other damage. From there we move to the decking blade. Check the hydraulic cylinders for leaks, damaged hoses or other damage. It is important to check every point where the cylinder is pinned to the machine to be sure the pin retention bolts are not missing or loose.

Now we walk in front of the machine, checking the decking blade to ensure that it is not damaged. Then we move to the left front of the machine where we again check the axle for leaks or damage. The left front tire is next, inspecting it and the wheel hub for the same issues as the first tire.

After the tire, we move to the middle of the left side of the machine. Inspect the cab steps for damage. Also check the articulation joint for leaks or damaged hoses. We now move to the left rear wheel. As we walk to the rear of the machine, look underneath at the rear axle to check for leaks. If the skidder is equipped with a grapple, check the rotator assembly for leaks, missing bolts or other damage. Are all the pin retainer bolts in place and secure? Inspect the grapple cylinders and hoses for damage and leaks. After the grapple, we inspect the right rear tire. Moving from the rear tire, check the right side articulation joint for damage,  leaks or other problems such as debris buildup.

We are now back at our starting point and have completed the ground level inspection and are ready to focus on the machine level. Starting with the engine compartment, check for debris buildup, leaks or other issues. Check oil and coolant levels. Make sure there is no debris buildup or damage to the air filter. Check engine belts for wear or cracks. Inspect cables or wires for cuts in the insulation or other damage that could affect the electrical system. Are battery cables in good condition and not rubbing against sharp metal surfaces? Check the radiator for leaks or damage or debris buildup.

After the engine compartment check, we move to the rear of the machine. If equipped with a winch, check for leaks or damage. Are all bolts present and tightened? Inspect the grapple hydraulic cylinders and all hydraulic hoses for damage or leaks. Be sure to check all cylinder pin retention bolts to ensure they are present and not loose.

We’re now ready for the operator’s compartment. Check that all windows are in good condition and clean. Check all exterior machine lights to ensure they function. Sit in the operator’s seat and check the seat belt for tears, abrasions or debris buildup in the reel mechanism. Did you know the seat belt has an expiration date? Make sure it has not expired. Check the floor of the cab for debris or trash. Next check all controls for damage. After that, turn on the ignition and ensure that all warning lights, gauges and the horn work. Check all machine control functions including the parking brake and service brake.

The inspection is now complete; however, it does no good if the de­fects discovered are not corrected before you begin work. Begin your day in the woods with a pre-shift walk-around safety inspection. The goal is simply: Safely Home. Everyone. Every Day. Visit for more safety tips for forestry workers, no matter what brand of equipment you have.

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