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How to Operate a Backhoe Safely: Step-By-Step Guide

how to operate a backhoe

In the days before large, industrial machines, if a crew wanted to dig a trench or load a cart, they had to do it themselves. Thankfully, we’ve graduated from relying solely on human-operated shovels and now have internal combustion and electric propulsion to take the workload. But with this new capability comes new safety risks.

What Can You Do with a Backhoe?

Backhoes are incredibly versatile. The industrial-grade machine and its many bucket attachments allow for jobs such as backfilling and grading, and the backhoe itself is excellent at both digging and loading.

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Understanding Basic Backhoe Operational Safety

With great power tools comes great responsibility. The potential hazards are numerous and must be taken seriously before operating a Kubota backhoe. Dangers include:

Kubota M62 tractor loader backhoe

  • Overturns: The backhoe loader tips over
  • Starting in Gear: Anyone too near the wheels runs the risk of getting crushed
  • Multiple Riders: People riding on the outside of the backhoe run the risk of falling
  • Operator Falls: Operators who don’t use handholds when mounting can fall
  • Inattentive Operators: They have the potential to strike or run over someone
  • Improperly Secured Loads: Rope, chain, and cables can snap or come loose
  • Improper Excavation: The ground beneath the machine can crumble
  • Transport: Backhoe loaders can fall if not properly secured in transport

Improper backhoe operation or transport can result in bruises, cuts, broken bones, concussions, and even death.

Important Backhoe Operation Safety Guidelines

Do you know how to operate a backhoe? Familiarize yourself with the backhoe safety guidelines to get the most out of your backhoe.

Before Operation

Before starting your backhoe:

  • Read the operator’s manual and safety procedures
  • Perform inspections on tire fluid, lights, electronics, and lines
  • Check for worn, loose, or corroded parts

After your backhoe safety inspection, make a note of any problems. If it’s company property, notify your supervisor and place a red tag on the backhoe that reads, “Out of Service,” with a list of reasons why. You must also complete annual training to refresh yourself on operation and safety protocols. Check out our Kubota maintenance schedule.

During Operation

When using the backhoe:

  • Watch for obstructions or people
  • Wear flagging garments, such as orange vests
  • Wear hard hats, long pants, and steel-toed boots
  • Never allow passengers
  • Use the backhoe’s stabilizers
  • Stay within operational limits
  • If working on a hillside, do not swing the backhoe’s arm uphill
  • Keep the bucket low to the ground when moving or transporting materials
  • Use the bucket for dumping only
  • Turn slowly, especially on slick or muddy ground
  • Go slowly over slopes
  • Never dismount the backhoe while it’s still running
  • Make adjustments after shutting off the engine and de-energizing the hydraulics

To shut down the backhoe, turn off the engine, lower the bucket and backhoe arm, and finally, engage the parking brake.

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operating a backhoe

Tips for Safe Digging

For stability, lower the stabilizer legs to the point where the rear wheels are barely off the ground. You will want to ensure that the bucket is not resting on the ground either, so make sure the front wheels are secure, too. Make sure the area is clear of obstructions and people. And wherever you’re operating a backhoe or excavator, there must be adequate ventilation. Carbon monoxide buildup is lethal.

Tips for Safe Backfilling

Collapses when backfilling are possible. You will have to be cautious to ensure that the walls of your trenches don’t crumble. This is especially true if you’re undercutting. You don’t want plummeting rocks or cave-ins. Keep the bucket low for good visibility and stability. Never use the side of the bucket or backhoe for pushing excavated material back into the hole!

Shutdown Procedure

To safely stop the backhoe, ensure it’s on level ground with the parking brake engaged. Lower both the backhoe and loader buckets until they are resting on the ground. Shut off the engine and take out the key. Relieve the pressure in the hydraulic system by working the controls. Once there is no more motion, you may dismount via the steps and handholds (no jumping!).

Choose Bobby Ford Kubota for All Your Backhoe Needs

We hope this guide showed you how to operate a backhoe as safely as possible. Bobby Ford Tractor and Equipment is ready to show you what Kubota backhoes can do. We’re with you every step of the way, and when you buy from us, we’re not going to leave you in the dark about how to operate a Kubota backhoe. After all, we want you to be satisfied and get decades of performance from your equipment!

Contact the Bobby Ford team to find the right Kubota tractor loader backhoe for you!

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