Key Takeaways

- Operator’s manuals provide essential information for the safe operation of equipment; yet there are challenges in presenting this information clearly, concisely and correctly for an adult learner.

- The purpose of this article is to provide a guide for safety professionals as they inspect this important component of the equipment.

- Root-cause analyses in incident investigations should include evaluation of the content in an operator’s manual.

The focus of this article is an examination of the issues in operator’s manuals that contribute to unsafe use of machinery, using agricultural and earthmoving heavy equipment as examples. Many incidents leading to injury or death occur with the improper operation of machinery. OSHA defers to operator’s manuals when no specific standard covers the machinery or operation involved, which falls under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act. Analysis of incidents presents various safety challenges with respect to the importance of operator’s manuals. For example, two of the top four hazards that construction workers face are classified as caught-in/between and struck-by incidents, both of which include incidents caused by the failure to properly operate heavy machinery (OSHA Directorate of Training and Education, 2011).

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