The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Lowering Belly Plates on Earth Moving Equipment

Graham Marshall - Monday, April 23, 2012

Over recent years, there have been numerous serious and fatal accidents involving the lowering and raising of “belly plates” (bottom guards) on heavy earth-moving equipment during inspections, maintenance and repairs.

The belly plates can unexpectedly fall if the guard is not appropriately supported.

This type of incident can frequently result in serious or fatal crush injuries.

The common contributory factors identified include:

• Failure to establish and follow appropriate work procedures;

• Failure to plan and supervise the work using JSA and procedures to ensure the correct equipment in use;

• Lack of training in bottom guard lowering and raising process, and lack of periodic re-assessment;

• Lack of use of lifting and lowering aids or component handling equipment;

• Employees positioned themselves directly under the bottom guards while removing nuts and bolts;

• Failure of the securing devices and absence of back-up protection such as blocks; and

• Inadequate lighting.

In response to recent fatal accidents, bottom guard lowering and raising on earth-moving equipment must be regarded as a safety critical task.

The job needs to be performed by competent persons in accordance with documented procedures addressing all the hazards.

Included below are some further hazard management actions which should be applied in minimizing the risk involved in lowering belly plates:

• Work in a workshop with the aid of fit-for-purpose lifting and lowering equipment;

• Complete a JSA and implement controls with management input, approval and supervision;

• Equipment component change-outs, repairs, testing and inspection should always be recorded;

• Workers should not position themselves directly beneath the belly plates;

• Stop and delay the work if inclement weather, poor lighting or visibility are present; and

• Regular monitoring and supervision should be undertaken, including task observation and peer review.

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