Skid Loader Operator Safety

Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator

Skid loaders are an ever-increasing popular piece of equipment used by farmers, agri-businesses, landscape companies and the construction industry. It is estimated that over 30,000 skid loaders are purchased from equipment manufactures annually in the United States. They are compact, powerful, and versatile machines that can fit into small spaces, and turn within a very tight radius. Primary functions of a skid loader include pushing, scraping, scooping, lifting, and dumping materials.  What makes this machine so versatile is a variety of attachments that can make efficient work when completing a variety of tasks.  Skid loaders can be easy to operate; however the operator must know the machine’s capabilities, as well as its limitations. When looking at skid loader operator safety, four critical areas need to be considered:

Machine Maintenance
- Stay clear of moving parts.
- Inspect the machine each day before use.
- Ensure shields and guards are in place.
- Repair leaking fittings or damaged hydraulic hoses.
Mounting and Dismounting
- Face the machine and maintain 3 points of contact.
- Keep steps clean from mud, oil, or debris.
- Always enter with the loader arms down.
- Never use the controls as handholds.
- Avoid jumping off when exiting.
Safe Operation
- Understand the controls and the safety equipment of the machine.
- Keep riders off of the machine.
- Be aware of potential site hazards.
- Be aware of bystanders or coworkers.
- Before backing, ensure that there is a clear travel path.
- Understand how attachments change the operation and handling of the machine.
- Lower all attachments to the ground before shut down.
Stability Considerations
- Travel with the heavy end uphill.
- Use caution on slopes and avoid abrupt turns at high speeds.
- Evenly distribute materials to stabilize the load.
- Avoid overloading; check the owner’s manual for the load capacity.
- Keep loads close to the ground to aid with visibility and lower the machine’s center of gravity.
- Loader attachments can alter the machine’s center of gravity.


For more information about the OSU Ag Safety visit or contact Kent McGuire, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health, at or 614-292-0588.