The Dangers of Overloading Equipment

Heavy equipment is strong but not impervious to misuse. Pushing it too far can lead to high repair bills and injured workers.  

United Rentals foreman and technicians have noticed a trend: Customers often try to use equipment to do much more than the machine is intended to handle.

Pushing heavy equipment past its capabilities or otherwise beating up on it can result in high repair and replacement costs — and more important, pose safety risks. 

Cranes probably have the greatest potential for causing property damage and loss of life when limitations are ignored. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 80 percent of crane structural failures, falls and tipping can be attributed to overloading the rigging equipment with heavy equipment or materials. The consequence? Not only injuries, but expensive repairs or even replacement of the crane, plus compensation for any damage the crane causes to the load, the surrounding area or people nearby.

Earthmoving equipment, including excavators, bulldozers and loaders, can also be pushed beyond its limit, even though these machines are low to the ground. If the load is too heavy, excavators and loaders can tip, cause permanent damage to booms and arms and overheat the hydraulic system, which can result in blown valves and cylinder damage.

Pieces of heavy equipment can also be overstressed when they're used in ways the manufacturer never intended. For example, trying to overcome steep inclines while towing equipment, pushing dirt or hauling material can cause equipment to overheat and break down, particularly in hot weather. This abuse can leave companies with a significant repair bill, particularly since this type of misuse can void the warranty.

To avoid equipment damage and lower the risk of human injury, operators should understand the limitations of the equipment and keep them in mind during use. The other choice is to prepare to pay an expensive repair bill or replacement cost, either of which will cause an additional financial loss due to delays.