The article “Beloved skid-steers are useful and risky” (Oct. 5, part of the four-part “Tragic Harvest” series, Oct. 4-7) provided a great deal of information about what can happen if skid-steer loaders — or any type of farm machinery — are not operated safely. It described the risks when safety features of machines are bypassed or machines are altered, when individuals operate machines without following the warnings and instructions provided with the machines, or when machines are operated in unsafe conditions.
Despite the gravity of these issues, the article only briefly referenced the role manufacturers have played in trying to prevent accidents. Only one sentence is devoted to this, reading: “Manufacturers have responded by constantly updating the machines, adding seat belts, safety bars, roll cages and control interlock-systems that make it harder for operators to hurt themselves.”
Bobcat Co. believes this does not do our efforts, or the industry’s efforts, justice. At Bobcat, safety is a core value, and safety innovation and engineering are at the forefront of what we do every day. In fact, for more than 50 years, Bobcat has been a pioneer in safety for skid-steer loaders and other types of compact equipment — many of which are industry standards today.
Some examples include the use of a rollover protective structure, a first on compact loaders; a seat bar secondary operator restraint; and the Bobcat Interlock Control System, which prevents use of the lift, tilt and traction drive functions until the operator is in the seat with the seat bar lowered.
While these safety innovations are noteworthy, it is important to point out that all Bobcat loaders — whether new or used and decades old — can be safely operated when following the warnings and instructions and when the machines are properly maintained and serviced.
Bobcat’s safety innovation is not limited to the design of our products. We also strive to make state-of-the-art safety training and information available to owners and operators in a wide variety of ways. For example, we developed the industry’s first safety training film, which was distributed to train Bobcat dealership staff members and customers, as well as high school and vocational school students. Today, Bobcat remains an innovator in safety messaging. Safety issues and features are discussed with every customer as part of our delivery process for machines and attachments. In addition, we offer comprehensive operator and service training courses (in English and Spanish) for every skid-steer loader we sell. We also provide safety videos for all of our machine product lines, which are available for free on our website (in English and Spanish). Additional point-of-sale or -rental opportunities for safety training through rental brochures and safety materials are also available. Information regarding these safety training resources may be found at www.bobcat.com/safety-training.
Bobcat also strives to make training available to owners and operators through cutting-edge technology platforms. For example, we make training information available through the company’s various social media outlets, such as our Facebook page, and on our blog, which is available at blog.bobcat.com/category/safety-training. We also offer QR (quick response) code links through various means so operators can access and view training on their mobile phones anywhere and at any time.
Bobcat believes that its machines can be operated safely and that most accidents are preventable when machines are operated in accordance with warnings and instructions. This belief is based on our active monitoring and investigation of accidents reported to the company, which we have done since 1969.
In fact, contrary to the broader trend described in the article, Bobcat has not seen a rise in the number of skid-steer loader accidents involving its equipment, but has instead seen a significant and ongoing decline in the overall number and rate of accidents and fatalities. We believe this is the result of our commitment to safety, and our efforts to bring innovation to both safety design and messaging.
Bobcat is not alone in its commitment to safety. We as an equipment industry are working together every day to help prevent accidents and tragedies like those detailed in the article. We continue to develop machine features, as well as encourage proper training and safe equipment operation of our equipment on farms, construction sites and anywhere else compact equipment is used.
Laura Ness Owens is director of marketing for the Bobcat Co. of West Fargo, N.D.