Backhoe Digging Techniques

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Backhoes are dangerous machines when not operated in a safe manner.
Backhoes are dangerous machines when not operated in a safe manner. (Image: Rainer Elstermann/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Backhoes are large, powerful pieces of equipment used to excavate land or move debris piles. Experience is required to operate the complex movements of the boom and bucket of the backhoe as well as the loader that moves the unit. Safety should always come first and then operating the unit to perform to its maximum capabilities to work most efficiently to save production time and money.

Level Surface

Always ensure that the loader the backhoe is attached to is sitting on level ground before beginning a trench or lifting heavy loads in the bucket. If the ground the loader will sit on is sloped to start with, dig a shallow trench on the high side of the slope where the wheels or tracks of the loader will sit, and place the material removed on the “low side” of the slope where the other side of the loader’s wheels or tracks will sit.

Placement

Park containment trucks next to the loader at a 90-degree angle to the excavation site. The backhoe can scoop from the excavation site and deposit the material into the containment truck without losing material; it simply swings over the tailgate rather than lifts high enough to get over the sides of the truck. If space prohibits parking the containment truck alongside the loader, park directly behind the loader; however, only fill the backhoe bucket halfway to prevent spillage when swinging the arm a full 160 degrees to the containment truck.

Stability

Always dig directly in front of or behind the loader so that the backhoe is in line with the tracks, or wheels, of the unit. Dumping alongside the tracks is fine because it requires less stability to dump the load from the bucket. Digging demands complete stability. If the loader comes with stabilizing legs, always put them down on the ground before operating the backhoe.

Backers and Hills

When moving small amounts of dirt or material, use large rocks or walls to stabilize the pile and hold the material in place while scooping into the backhoe bucket. Operate the backhoe uphill by swinging the bucket up a slope for stability. Never place the loader at the top of a slope to lower the bucket down the hill.

Due Diligence

Always take the time to inspect all connections and hoses for breaks, leaks or loss of hydraulic pressure before using the backhoe. Operate each control lever, and ensure the mechanisms move in the appropriate directions in the entire range of motion. Keep up on regularly scheduled maintenance as detailed in the operations manual for the model. Fittings should get greased after every eight hours of collective operation. Check all fluids daily.

Safety

Never ignore safety insignias or decals. Obey the cautions and warnings when operating a backhoe to prevent serious, even fatal injuries. Always check the surrounding areas for people before starting the backhoe.

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