Landscape Safety Series, Safety With the Loader/Backhoe

  • Fluegel, Lance;
  • Rein, Bradley K.


  • Read the owner's manual to learn the characteristics of your machine.
  • For your personal protection you will need to wear some or all of the following: sturdy pants and shirt, safety shoes, hard hat, safety goggles or glasses, gloves, hearing protection, and respirator for dusty conditions. Sunscreen protection is vital in Arizona if not under a roof.
  • Check the loader/backhoe for the presence of the following safety devices in good working order: rollover protective structure (ROPS), seat belt (if ROPS equipped), guards, shields, backup warning system, lights, and mirrors.
  • Fill the fuel tank while engine is off and cool. Never fill inside a building. Do not smoke. Wipe up any spills immediately.
  • Check the machine daily for broken, missing, or damaged parts. Make the necessary repairs or replacements.
  • Keep the machine clean -- especially steps, hand rails, pedals, grab irons, and floor of the cab. Slippery surfaces are very hazardous.
  • Remove or secure loose items in the cab that could interfere with operating the controls.
  • Check the work area for hidden holes, obstacles, drop-offs, etc. Clear children, pets, and bystanders from the area.
  • Check overhead for utility lines, roofs, and other obstacles.
  • Request Blue Stake service to locate underground cables, gas lines, water, and sewer lines before digging. You need to request this service in advance.
  • Always use the hand rails, ladders, and steps provided when mounting the machine; never grab controls or the steering wheel.
  • The cab was designed for one person -- allow no riders, especially children.

  • Adjust the seat, fasten the seat belt, set the brake, and place transmission in park or neutral before starting the engine.
  • If machine is in a garage be sure ventilation is adequate. CARBON MONOXIDE KILLS!
  • Start the engine and check all controls for proper function. Check horn and backup alarm. Do not use if anything is faulty.
  • If the backhoe is still attached be sure to use chains and locks to prevent it from swinging.
  • If the backhoe is removed you may have to use counterweights. Check your owner's manual.
  • Keep the working area as level and clean as possible. Use the bucket to grade the area frequently.
  • Always carry the bucket low for good visibility and maximum stability.
  • Use extreme caution when backfilling to avoid collapsing the wall of the trench.
  • When undercutting high banks or material piles be alert for falling rocks and/or cave-ins.

  • Keep the loader bucket on the ground.
  • Level the machine for maximum stability.
  • Operate the backhoe only from the seat.
  • Never swing the bucket over a truck cab. Do not load the truck while the driver is still inside.
  • Dump the bucket uphill if possible when operating on a slope. If you must dump downhill swing slowly to avoid tipping the machine.
  • If using the backhoe as a hoist, do so with the weight over the back of the machine -- NEVER THE SIDE -- to avoid tipping. Be sure the load you are lifting is balanced, and move the boom slowly to avoid swaying the load.

  • Park the machine on level ground if possible and set the parking brake. Place transmission in park if so equipped.
  • Lower the loader and backhoe buckets to the ground.
  • Stop the engine and remove the key.
  • Work the hydraulic controls to relieve pressure.
  • Wait until all motion has stopped and then dismount carefully using steps and safety holds. Do not jump from the machine.

Publication #: 8831-J

This document is apart of a series from the the Cooperative Extension, the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719. Publication date: May 1989.

Lance Fluegel, Safety Coordinator, and Bradley Rein, Engineering Specialist, the College of Agriculture, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More