Operating heavy machinery can be a demanding job in all types of weather. However the cold doesn’t stop machinery operators! As winter approaches, the cold and wet months can offer a new set of challenges when operating plant machinery and these issues can lead to breakdowns and safety hazards. It is important that you keep your plant machinery (as well as yourself!) safe and prepared for the cold winter weather.
When you’re not operating your machinery, be sure to keep your equipment out of the harsh elements. If your plant doesn’t have a temperature-controlled setting, it is best to look for a storage solution that at the very least prevents snow and sleet from accumulating on the equipment. The less exposure to winter weather conditions means a lesser chance of weather-related damage to essential components.
When starting up your plant on cold winter mornings it can be an idea to get a block heater to pre-warm your engine before start-up on freezing mornings. These devices will warm up engine coolant and oil as well as hydraulic fluid. Letting your vehicle warm up for a while before starting can reduce the mechanical stress on hoses, wires as well as other crucial components of your plant in cold weather start-ups.
Cold temperatures can reduce oil’s normal flow. As part of your regular plant maintenance, ensure that fluid levels are correct for engine oil, hydraulic and transmission fluids, and final drive lubricants. At temperatures below 40 degrees, the hydrocarbons in diesel fuel begin to gel. This gelling can affect engine start-up. Ensuring that you refill your engine after operating your machinery will also reduce the likelihood of remnant water and fuel tank freezing overnight.
Be careful with batteries in cold winter weather, a discharged or frozen battery will stop your excavator in its tracks! Attempting to charge a frozen battery can cause it to explode. A battery needs double the typical cranking amps in cold temperatures, be sure to store any batteries in a warmer setting when not in used.
Cold air can be particularly harmful towards tyres, in colder temperatures, for every 10 degrees of temperature drop, the tyre pressure will drop 1 psi. It is important to keep them within their recommended pressure to maintain traction. Take extra care when driving on frozen ground, icy patches and black ice on surfaces can result in poor traction meaning wheels can slip more easily surfaces. Be sure that when operating machinery, you proceed with caution and drive slowly!
As the cold sets in so does the early darkness. With fewer daylight hours it can be tough to see safely for proper equipment operation. Be sure to sufficiently light any areas you are working on.
Winter weather such as frost and condensation can create blind spots in your line of sight. Don’t try to work in conditions with poor visibility. Make sure that your windows are kept clean and clear and use a defroster to clear up any ice or frost that has settled overnight.