A Yard Safety White Paper from EquipmentShare
An equipment yard is more than just a physical location to store construction equipment. Properly set up and operated, an equipment yard is a dynamic workplace where a wide variety of machines can be readily identified, transported and serviced. A safe equipment yard can also contribute to jobsite safety, even if they’re miles apart.
According to OSHA, despite making up only 6% of the workforce, construction industry employees account for 20% of all worker deaths every year. That is more than 1,000 workers who didn’t go home to their families2. Every one of these fatalities was preventable, and we believe that a safety-focused equipment yard can help prevent future accidents. This paper is designed to assist you in creating and operating that safety top-of-mind equipment yard. As you read through, note that many of our recommendations directly address OSHA’s most frequently cited workplace standards. At EquipmentShare, it is our hope that anyone who uses or stores construction equipment will find something in this document that will help them create a safer, more compliant workplace.
Whether you are establishing an equipment yard for the first time or reviewing one that already exists, the physical setup of the yard can contribute greatly to overall safety.
When planning a safe equipment yard, the land itself is the first consideration. While many factors influence the decision of where to place an equipment yard, a few items should be non-negotiable.
Around 75% of fatal struck-by incidents involve heavy equipment4. The ideal equipment yard should be large enough to store the equipment needed while allowing ample space for machines and delivery vehicles to operate safely. This includes space large enough to sort equipment by operational status and allow equipment operators and drivers to see people as they walk around the yard.
The yard should be flat and either paved or gravel for proper tire traction. Ravines, boulders and other immovable ground obstacles should be clearly signed and marked to avoid accidents.
These can be found overhead or on the ground and might be temporary or permanent. Areas under power lines and other overhead obstructions should be clearly marked and avoided by tall equipment at all times. The grounds should be regularly checked for potholes, roots and other hazards. These should be marked as soon as they’re discovered and repaired as soon as possible.
Because trees are able to create both ground obstructions (roots) and overhead obstructions (limbs), they should be cleared from the property.
Equipment yards are usually more than just empty fields. Buildings, fencing, wash bays and fueling points are all important parts of the yard. Each requires individualized safety precautions.
All buildings on the yard should be properly maintained and marked with appropriate signage. As the repository of tools, parts and safety equipment, service buildings should be locked after hours and armed with security systems. These systems should be regularly tested to ensure functionality.
Workshops should be stocked with proper safety equipment at all times, including eyewash stations, Safety Data Sheets (SDS), a lock-out tag station and proper signage. All employee-only areas, such as workshops, should be marked and physically separate from public areas.
Fencing is the first line of defense from a security and safety standpoint. Tampered equipment may be unsafe to operate, so yards should be fenced and gated to reduce these risks. In addition, alarms should be installed and used. Fencing and gates also allow operators to communicate with anyone wishing to enter the yard. Signage indicating policies such as: “Authorized Personnel Only” and “PPE Required Beyond This Point,” as well as clear directional signage for drivers, gives staff and visitors the reminders they need to ensure they are proceeding safely as they enter the yard.
These are potentially dangerous and should therefore be taken very seriously. All employees, regardless of role, should know the location of the emergency shutoff. The fueling point itself should be kept clear of obstructions and conspicuously signed. The emergency shutoff should be clearly marked and visible, and fire extinguishers should be in an appropriate and marked location. Any fuel spills should be reported immediately and cleaned up according to proper safety procedures.
These must be kept in EPA compliance at all times. Cleaning chemicals should be handled per manufacturer guidelines, and SDS should be kept on file for all cleaning products.
In the event of an emergency, such as a fire or fuel leak, all personnel should report to a predefined emergency gathering area where the general manager can take a headcount to ensure everyone is safe. The area should be away from buildings, workshops and other structures. The location of this area, as well as all other emergency procedures, should be clearly identified and included in employee training.
According to the National Safety Council, in 2019, there were 229,410 nonfatal injuries and illnesses resulting from contact with objects and equipment that led to missed workdays5. So as you lay out your equipment yard, the most important thing you can do to contribute to long-term safety is to organize your equipment to minimize risk. The way you arrange equipment can increase or decrease the likelihood of issues such as:
Many of these issues can be mitigated with a well-planned organizational strategy.
All equipment on the yard falls into one of three categories: 1) Equipment that is cleared and ready to be deployed to a jobsite; 2) Equipment that requires service in order to clear it for use (a “hard down”); 3) Equipment that requires inspection or maintenance before being sorted into one of the other categories. Machines within these three groups must be kept separate at all times. A rigorous color-coded tagging system should be in place to ensure no equipment leaves the yard until it has been cleared to do so.
Physically sorting equipment by tag color can greatly reduce confusion and the chance of deploying unsafe equipment to the jobsite. Placing green-tagged equipment in a designated location convenient for pickup will reduce traffic on the yard and increase the safety of workers and visitors. Receiving all equipment deliveries in the yellow tag area will ensure the appropriate person inspects and clears every piece before redeployment. Highly visible signage for delivery drivers will assist you in keeping your equipment in the correct areas as deliveries come and go throughout the day.
Equipment requiring a lock-out tag should be stored in a clearly marked area away from other items.
When storing pieces of equipment in any area, it is important to store them a safe distance apart and with the most frequently accessed items placed in the most accessible locations. This will minimize tripping and crushing hazards and maximize visibility and loading efficiency. Equipment stored too close together is also more likely to be involved in a collision when moved. Also, never store equipment right next to the fence — allow room on all sides. For equipment that requires an electrical connection for charging, such as lifts, store in a location that minimizes the distance of electrical lines to avoid tripping and shock hazards. Regardless of where they are stored, machines should not be considered cleared for deployment without all safety decals, emergency functions, inspection stamps, checklists and manuals being present, current and functional.
According to OSHA, workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses cost the country billions of dollars every yearWhile every effort can be made to create a top-of-mind safety environment, it comes down to people to act with safety at all times. The right resources, comprehensive training programs and regular reviews are essential to operate a safety-first equipment yard.
Every equipment yard should have up-to-date safety plans and resources available to all workers at all times.
A safety equipment list for your equipment yard should be developed and routinely checked against personnel and equipment needs. Items to consider include:
OSHA also recommends regular inspections, cleaning and maintenance for all protective equipment, in accordance with manufacturer guidelines7.
The foundation of safety in any workplace is a workforce that knows how to perform their tasks safely. Safety and health training programs are designed to help prevent jobsite injuries and illnesses, and they ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Most importantly, safety training works. One study showed safety training programs were associated with 6% fewer falls and 8% fewer contact injuries that resulted in days away from work — as well as a reduction in injury severity. Your training program should follow all OSHA-recommended practices for safety and health programs. Larger organizations may consider employing a full-time safety officer to ensure a proper training program is developed and delivered successfully. Smaller organizations should strongly consider outsourcing this function to a competent vendor with specific expertise in this area.
Additionally, organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders offer customizable models to create in-house safety and health programs.9
An integral part of any safety program is an ongoing review process. The goal of the review process is to continuously improve the overall safety and health of the workforce over time. If an organization has a dedicated safety officer or team, the review process will be a key part of their job.
The safety review process for an equipment yard should: