Though often overlooked, backing vehicles and equipment are a prevalent hazard in construction. OSHA's Integrated MIS data reports that between 2005 and 2010, 194 backover deaths occurred as the result of various trucks and equipment being backed up.
In addition to specific OSHA regulations regarding material and mechanical handling equipment and motor vehicles, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends some standard operating procedures of their own:
Create and enforce an operating procedure that addresses how to work safely and lists best practices to follow when working near vehicles and other equipment.
Establish safety procedures for working at night with backing equipment. Make sure to wear high-visibility apparel.
Before work begins, design the worksites to minimize or eliminate the need for backing vehicles and equipment.
Be sure drivers know not to back up equipment unless they are under the direction of a spotter.
Use barrels, barricades, cones or reflective devices to guide vehicles and equipment away from workers.
Post signs informing workers where it is safe to walk.
What is the most crucial element in preventing backover accidents?
Communication is undoubtedly integral to maintaining worker safety when backing up. Particularly, it is important to frequently review communication signals between all relevant on-site workers. NIOSH recommends that this communication review be done at the start of each shift.
What about workers on foot?
NIOSH has a set of safety tips for workers on foot near backing equipment as well:
Wear appropriate high-visibility personal protective equipment.
Know the blind spots of vehicles and equipment you work near.
Never approach a piece of equipment or vehicle without a clear signal of acknowledgment from the operator.
Avoid areas where vehicles and equipment travel.
Avoid complacency—always know your surroundings.
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