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Safely Solving Capacity Constraints with Rental Industrial Equipment

A great many businesses operate on a peak-and-valley basis, where their workload varies between busy peaks separated by slow valleys. Seasonal businesses experience this variation the most, with the majority of their annual activity compressed into a short peak period of weeks or months, leaving the rest of the year quietly preparing for the next season. Likewise, project-based companies experience similar conditions, where one awarded project will drive a peak of work that eventually tapers off until the next project begins. In all cases, operational peaks call for a swell in resources to handle short-term capacity constraints, and most businesses rely on rental industrial equipment to help supply these resources. From our experience, there is a relationship between rental equipment safety and a business’ seasonality – in other words, businesses with steeper peaks and wider valleys in their annual schedule may not use equipment regularly enough to be fully versed in the safety requirements of that equipment or its operation. For this reason, we’d like to offer suggestions on how businesses can promote safety when renting heavy industrial equipment.

To begin, let’s first define what we mean by rental equipment. Most renters will have a different perspective on what constitutes ‘heavy industrial equipment’, depending on their unique industry, application, and experience. Our goal is to universally encourage a rigorous look at equipment safety, driving readers from all backgrounds to recognize that safety concerns exist across the board. The most common rental equipment types include:

  • Forklifts
  • Boom Lifts
  • Scissor Lifts
  • Reach Lifts
  • Telehandlers
  • Excavators
  • Loaders
  • Dozers
  • Trailers
  • Backhoes
  • Skid Steers
  • Air Compressors
  • Concrete Mixers
  • Electrical Generators
  • Site Lighting
  • Pickup and Dump Trucks
  • Forklift Accessories such as rotating forks, reel poles, man baskets, and fork booms 
rental equipment range.

For every item on this list, renters will be exposed to safety hazards involving the equipment itself as well as additional hazards exposed to human operators and nearby personnel. Further, these two factors can compound on each other should the wrong equipment be selected for a project and then operated in an unsafe manner. From the smallest forklift attachments up to the largest excavators, safety risks are abundant and must all be given equal respect. To do so, let’s walk through safety suggestions that speak to both equipment and operator concerns below. 

Ensuring Safety from an Equipment Perspective

Whenever a company rents equipment, the expectation is that this equipment is ready to be used the moment it arrives. This is an inherent part of any rental agreement – that only well-maintained, safe equipment is delivered to a renter, which is one of the core attractions of renting equipment to begin with. While this is true, renters also have a responsibility to their employees and customers to double-check rental equipment before getting to work. At minimum, renters should confirm the below key equipment details to ensure project safety:

  • Appropriate Equipment Selection – no rental equipment engagement can be deemed safe if the equipment provided is not appropriate for the work at hand. Equipment renters must educate themselves enough to make an informed decision on what equipment they’re renting, and when in doubt, consult with the rental company to review the application.
  • Technical Specifics – further to the above point, all rental equipment has technical limitations that must be confirmed to be compatible with the intended work. Load capacities, gross equipment weights, max personnel quantities, temperature limits, duty cycles, and even fuel types must all be understood and complied with to ensure safe operation.
  • Physical Inspection – renters must always perform a physical inspection before operating a piece of rental equipment. This inspection should include a visual check for leaks, wear and tear, missing components, and other obvious issues, followed by an operational test of all equipment functions. Most importantly, all safety features must be checked such as backup alarms, horns, lights, turn signals, seat belts, fall restraints, level alarms, emergency stops, parking brakes, safety cages, and so on.
  • OEM-Approved Attachments – only attachments approved by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can be safely used, and even then, only when used in strict accordance with the OEM’s written instructions. A rental company may broadly offer accessories and attachments that physically fit many equipment pieces, but renters must still confirm that each accessory is approved by their equipment’s OEM.
  • Field Service and Repairs – should an issue arise with a piece of rental equipment during use, renters should fully understand what options they have available to mitigate the situation. Most rental companies will gladly dispatch their own field service technicians to visit the jobsite, and usually absorb any costs associated with routine maintenance and repairs. Renters should review these details and obtain service contact information before putting the equipment into service.

Expanding Safety Considerations from a Personnel Perspective

Too often, renters focus solely on equipment details when evaluating a project’s risk factors and underestimate the role that their employees play in mitigating those risks. Renters should expand their safety considerations to fully cover their personnel as well, using the following suggestions:     

  • Orientation and Training – the company renting the equipment is responsible for ensuring any employee(s) who are operating the equipment are properly trained prior to operation. Even for operators experienced with similar equipment, there are almost always differences between makes, models, and features that warrant refresher training before every project. In addition to being trained on the unit, operators should read the OEM manual, complete the daily inspection, understand all the unit’s functional and safety features, and test drive the equipment to get acclimated to its controls.
  • Operator Certification – third-party regulatory agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have strict requirements over heavy equipment operation that even rental operators must comply with, and will issue citations and fines to any party found operating equipment without this certification. Further, any accidents found to involve an uncertified operator can lead to increased fines and legal action. Renters must ensure that they have all certifications in place before renting equipment.  
  • Proper PPE – operating heavy industrial equipment can be dangerous for both operators and nearby personnel, requiring complete and proper personal protective equipment to be worn at all times. Heavy equipment can routinely eject flying debris, produce loud sounds, cause physical strain through vibration and impacts, generate scalding heat, and emit volatile emissions. Renters must determine the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for their applications, provide this PPE to their staff, and proactively enforce its use.
  • Operating Environment – heavy equipment is almost always used in aggressive environments, from construction sites to industrial plants and beyond. Such environments are already harsh on employees, and these conditions can be exacerbated through the use of rental equipment to the point that operators may experience increased environmental risks. Renters should be cognizant of these risks and make equipment selections accordingly. For example, rental excavators to be used in extreme sun exposure should be selected with full cabin air conditioning and tinted windows.
  • Rental Vendor Support – equipment rental companies are in the business of providing scalable resources to help customers navigate peak project demands, and offer many valuable services beyond simply renting equipment. When thinking about ways to ensure project safety, renters can turn to premiere rental partners such as Fairchild Equipment to support operator training, certification, rental fleet maintenance, emergency service, PPE and safety equipment supply, and even application consulting (to select the right equipment for the job). Most importantly, rental equipment operators must be provided with a direct line to support staff at the rental company so that they can always engage help whenever needed and never be forced into making isolated, unsafe decisions concerning their equipment. 

We hope that this discussion has been helpful for your commercial material handling needs. Fairchild Equipment is the Upper Midwest’s premier Material Handling Equipment and Service resource, with headquarters in  Green Bay, Wisconsin, and numerous locations serving needs 24/7 across Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Northern Illinois, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For more information or to discuss which Warehouse Optimization solution might be best for you, please send us a message or call us at (844) 432-4724.


2140 Hutson Rd.
Green Bay, Wisconsin 54303
(920) 494-8726