Workplace Solutions Training

Teachable concepts for heavy equipment operators

How can I teach complex concepts, such as center of mass and physics, that are required to instruct operators on the use of heavy equipment?

Images: United Rentals, Serious Labs Inc.

Responding is Michael Driscoll, division training manager, United Rentals, Charlotte, NC, and Ken MacLean, president, Serious Labs Inc., Calgary, Alberta.

As an instructor, teaching the nebulous concept of center of mass requires the use of reference manuals, models and drawing on real-life experiences. Stability and capacity instruction covers leverage; center of gravity; load weight; unit configuration; the stability triangle, rectangle, pyramid; and motion.

The stability pyramid or rectangle model can be a great starting point and provoke conversation. It helps if you have a physical model that displays how the center of gravity moves and gives a visual to the trainees showing how actions such as lifting or tilting can impact the center of gravity and reduce the stability of the unit.

By using real-life experiences and non-graphic pictures, an instructor can talk about a catastrophic equipment tip-over. He or she can show why an accident happened. This ensures trainees can relate to what happened at a jobsite accident and help prevent them from making the same mistake.

For example, if you hold an object close to your chest, you can hold it there all day. However, as you extend your arms straight out with the heavy load, you become less and less stable, increasing the likelihood of losing balance.

There are several ways to teach stability and capacity in a blended learning environment. Some of the concepts an instructor may want to impart to students include leverage, center of gravity, load weight and unit configuration, as well as the stability rectangle and pyramid previously mentioned. Video illustrates these concepts the best – with animation you can show the catastrophic outcome of bad decisions or lack of true understanding.

Many teachable concepts are introduced to students in a blended learning environment, and a picture tells the story best when punctuated with real-life stories. The images above can be used by an instructor to supplement a presentation.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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