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How to Operate a Backhoe

A backhoe loader is a multi-purpose piece of construction equipment, most commonly used for excavations, that is known as a “backhoe” among contractors. The digging bucket, or hoe, is attached to the backside of the cab. The loader bucket is attached to the front side of the cab. The operator sits in a swivel seat on the top of the cab to allow him or her to operate the equipment from either the back or front of the machine.

What Does a Backhoe Do?

Backhoes are common on construction sites and have the versatility to complete a multitude of projects. Backhoes are available in different sizes and are capable of handling small, medium and large construction projects. Below are five of the most common ways backhoes are used:

Dig Trenches: Backhoes have excavating arm with a bucket mounted on the rear or the machine on the backside of the machine that is ideal for completing large digging projects.

Uproot Trees: Backhoes are great for uprooting unsightly, cumbersome tree stumps in your yard.

Grading and Loading: The loader bucket is used to move or load the material. It is also used for backfilling, demolition, grading, and leveling.

Plow Snow: If you own a construction site or home in an area that receives a lot of snow in the winter, backhoes can clear the snow from roads in a matter of minutes.

How to Operate a Backhoe

While every backhoe operates differently, there are general steps to follow when using this machine. Follow these steps below:

Open the Bucket: First, position yourself in the swivel chair in the cab. Familiarize yourself with all of the backhoe controls and learn their functions. First, steady the backhoe by lowering the stabilizers down. Second, release the boom’s lock. Third, extend the machine’s stick by pushing the left control. Lastly, push the control on the right to open the bucket.

Lower the Boom: Lowering the boom is quite simple, but you should be extra careful when performing this step to ensure you don’t run into other machines or materials. When you are ready, simply push the right control and the boom will be lowered.

Start Digging: To begin scooping soil and dirt, push the right control to the left. This movement will curl the bucket inward.

Lift the Dirt: To raise the boom, pull the right and left controls simultaneously. This movement will keep the bucket curled while raising the boom.

Dump the Soil: To open the bucket, push the controls again simultaneously. You can then push the stick toward the cab to dump the load.


How Do I Operate a Backhoe Safely?

A backhoe is a large piece of equipment that can be hazardous if the operator is careless or does not receive the proper training before use. There are a few things every operator should do when using a backhoe to ensure the project is completed safely. Follow these best practices when operating a backhoe:

• Never leave the operator’s seat while the machine is running.
• Never go underneath the backhoe.
• Know where the safety manual is at all times and reference it regularly.
• Always wear a seatbelt while operating the machine.
• Make sure the stabilizers are down whenever you operate the machine.
• Never exceed 5 miles per hour.
• Check blind spots and be mindful of your surroundings.
• Be aware of maximum operating weights.
• Avoid working too close to an edge or on uneven ground.
• Review site plans and check equipment before operating.


Tips for Backhoe Operators

Whether you have many years of experience in the construction industry or you are an entry-level employee, the most important thing to proper backhoe operation is thorough training. Operators are not the only individuals who need proper training. It is important for technicians, owners and anyone else who comes in contact with the backhoe to be properly trained.

Even operators who have been properly trained need to take plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the backhoe controls. Take the time to go over the backhoe settings and options. If you operate multiple backhoes, notice the differences between the machines and adjust your movements accordingly.

Each day, conduct a basic maintenance check to ensure the machine is in good working order and ready to go. Check for flat tires and ensure that there are no other machines or materials in the immediate area that could interfere with the operation. Check all fluids including the fuel, oil and hydraulic fluid. Also, check the high-activity areas of the backhoe and apply grease as needed.

Backhoes should go through thorough maintenance checks every six months. Do not wait until certain components of the backhoe begin to break down. Save money and ensure your machine is always safe to drive by hiring a qualified technician to service the backhoe on a regular basis.backhoe-heavy-equipment-hec

What Training Do I Need to Operate a Backhoe?

The requirements for becoming a backhoe operator will vary widely depending on your employer. Some employers will provide you with on-the-job-training if you have some construction experience and a commercial driver’s license. However, because operating a backhoe can be dangerous, many employers will require a certificate or other applicable training. Receiving training from a trade or vocational school can really help your application to stand out amongst other job seekers when applying for jobs.

If you are ready to start a new career as a backhoe operator or you simply want to hone your skills, check out backhoe training at Heavy Equipment Colleges of America (HEC). All of our programs provide students with the knowledge and practical application techniques they need to operate backhoes safely and efficiently. We use classroom learning and field training to provide students with the expertise they need to quickly land jobs in the construction industry. Visit our website today to learn more about our programs and financing options.

*The following information is supplemental to the information contained in the operator manual of the equipment you are operating.


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