Operating heavy equipment or a motor vehicle is inherently a hazardous task, however, backing up creates more risk for incidents to occur. According to the National Safety Council, backing accidents have caused 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year since 2005. All too often unnecessary backing is responsible for injuries and property damage incidents. It is important to consider the hazards of backing and what can be done to mitigate them. Always look before backing.
Hazards of Backing
With increased blind spots, backing leaves drivers and operators at more risk for error resulting in damage or injury. The most serious incident occurring due to backing are fatalities of ground personnel. Between the years 2000 to 2010 OSHA found that dump trucks followed by semi-trucks and light pickups have been responsible for most of the on the job back-over incidents. Outside of struck-by incidents involving ground personnel, there are many other hazards to consider. A few hazards include:
- Less visibility and more blind spots are present looking backward through and across a vehicle interior. Always look one more time through the rear glass before backing.
- Fixed objects can be hidden or out of view in Blind Spots
- Moving equipment or vehicles come from outside of mirror and side window view
- Getting Caught Between equipment and fixed objects
- Being Struck By or run over by equipment and vehicles
- Uneven terrain (construction sites) changes the view angle of or distorts mirror views
Best Practices and Safeguards to Mitigate the Hazards of Backing
✓ The single best way to prevent backing-related incidents is to eliminate backing as much as possible. Most work areas and tasks can be set up in such a way that backing up is not necessary. Preplanning of movements is another way to eliminate unnecessary backing. When arriving, back in at parking lots and shopping centers so your first move leaving is forward.
✓ Look for pull through parking before choosing to park where your first move is backing up. Always try to position yourself so that you can easily pull forward out of a parking spot.
✓ If you need to back up after being in a fixed position, complete a walk around of your vehicle. This allows you to be aware of what is in your blind spots prior to making a move.
✓ Clean the lens of and use backup cameras on equipment and vehicles. Ensure the back up alarm is working if so equipped
✓ Use a spotter often. When backing is necessary and there are hazards such as other ground personnel, vehicles, heavy equipment, or fixed objects in the area then a spotter is necessary. Always consider the additional hazards created when a spotter is used in a work area with moving equipment or vehicles. Stop if you lose sight of your spotter.
✓ Mark fixed objects with flags, cones or posts so they are more visible to those operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment in a work area.
✓ Place protective barricades and signage to protect critical or expensive equipment from struck-by incidents.
Backing can often be eliminated or greatly reduced when proper preplanning is used. Elimination should always be the first choice before relying on less effective safeguards such as mirrors, backup cameras or a spotter.
“Average driver operates a vehicle in reverse about one mile annually, yet 25-30% of all vehicle accidents occur backing up.”
S&ME Geotechnical Engineers, Safe Driving Training Manual