Preventing Accidents When Backing Up

Date: March 2, 2020

Doug Sams, Risk Control Consultant

Tips to Help Equipment Operators Prevent Accidents While Backing

One out of four vehicle accidents can be attributed to poor backing techniques, according to the National Safety Council. The Council also found that backing accidents cause 15,000 injuries and 500 deaths per year.

When it comes to work zones, one of the leading causes of fatalities is being struck by construction equipment or vehicles. Most of those incidents involved dump trucks and occurred when the vehicle or equipment was backing up.

These statistics reinforce how important it is to properly train your operators on correct backing techniques to prevent these types of injuries and deaths. Here are some of our tips: 

Install Technology

First, consider installing technology solutions that can help keep your crew safe. There are many options available.

Back-up alarms are a great way to alert surrounding pedestrians and crew members that a piece of equipment is backing up. The alarms provide an audible warning, so the people around can move out of the direction of that vehicle/equipment in reverse.

For the operator, rear-vision camera systems can help improve visibility of the rear of the vehicle. Likewise, consider installing proximity sensors, which can detect objects near the rear of the vehicle/equipment, and sound an audible alarm inside the cab, which increases in consistency and volume the closer the vehicle gets to the object.

Train your Operators

With or without the recommended technology for safe backing, ensure each operator has the necessary training. This begins with practicing backing repeatedly in a safe, secure environment – free of surrounding obstacles and people. The goal should be the driver feeling very familiar with backing in that specific piece of equipment/vehicle.

Your drivers/operators should also review hand signals, backing techniques, what to look for around the vehicle/equipment, and other risk-lowering topics. Training should also feature notes about limitations of backup alarms, rear vision cameras, and proximity sensors. Your drivers should be trained to carefully back up and not solely rely on their vehicle/equipment’s technology.

Set Safe Procedures

The technology and training can only make a difference if your employees are following procedures to help ensure everyone’s safety. These are some of the policies we recommend:  

  • Use forward driving whenever possible. Your operator/driver should pull forward whenever possible and not create unnecessary backing situations.
  • Conduct a walk-around. Operators/drivers should walk around the equipment/vehicle for a firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations. They should also look for people, other equipment/vehicles, construction materials, soft and muddy areas, potholes, tire hazards and other dangers. Overhead lines, utility poles, building eaves, low-hanging trees and any other hazards should also be considered. Within a few seconds of the walk-around, the operator/driver should start backing in order to not allow time for those circumstances to alter.
  • Watch out for changes. Even if the backing situation is from the same location several times per day, the operator/driver should be careful and stay alert to changing situations.

Appoint a spotter. Have a spotter help your operator/driver back up. The pair should have agreed-upon hand signals because background noise often makes verbal cues difficult. The spotter should never walk backward while giving instructions. Rather the spotter should stay in a stationary, visible spot and stay alert of surroundings.

Interested in learning more tips on keeping your operators and worksite crew safe? Click the "Find an Agent" button below and locate an agent near you.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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