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Preventing backover accidents

Backover accidents: They don't happen very frequently, but when they do, they often result in death or serious injuries.

A backover accident happens when a vehicle that is going in reverse hits a person who is standing, walking, or kneeling behind the vehicle. Construction workers are most susceptible to backover accidents, but they can happen in a wide range of situations. Sanitation workers, emergency responders, warehouse workers, truck drivers, and others can also be at risk for a backover accident.

By taking a few precautions, most if not all backup accidents can be avoided. In this blog post, we will explore how backup accidents happen and discuss safety measures that construction workers and others can take to minimize the possibility of such an accident.

How backover accidents happen

There are many ways by which a backover accident can happen:

  • A driver may assume that the area behind the vehicle is clear and not bother to look.
  • A driver who is backing up may not see a person in a blind spot.
  • A worker riding on a vehicle may fall off while it's going in reverse.
  • Noise or distractions on a construction site may cause a worker not to hear a backing alarm.
  • A truck may not have a backing alarm or the alarm may not be in working order.
  • A spotter for one vehicle may not see another vehicle that's backing up.

For the years 2005 to 2010, these vehicles caused the most backover fatalities:

Dump trucks            67
Semi-trailer trucks    40
Trucks                     30
Forklifts                   21
Garbage trucks         20
Pickup trucks            16

How to prevent backover accidents

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has prepared recommendations for encourage safe backing procedures. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has prepared similar recommendations specifically for the road construction industry.

Some of the most important of these recommendations are as follows:

Use spotters

  • Make sure that both the spotter and driver have been trained on the signals to be used.
  • The spotter should maintain constant visual contact with the vehicle when it is backing up.
  • The driver should immediately stop if he loses sight of the spotter.
  • Spotters should have no additional duties and should not operate cellphones or other equipment while they are spotting.

Vehicle cameras

Some newer models come equipped with rear-view cameras, and there are retrofit kits on the market for installation in older vehicles.

Proximity detection systems

These devices use ultrasound or radar to alert a driver regarding objects behind the vehicle.

Tag systems

There are systems on the market that consist of an electromagnetic sensor mounted in a vehicle cab and tags that are worn by workers. The system can be programmed to take a specific action when it senses the presence of a worker with a tag, such as sounding an alarm or automatically stopping the vehicle.

Internal control plans

On a construction site, management can design a work flow pattern. The pattern can minimize the need for vehicles to back up, and also route workers away from the path of vehicles.

A worker who has been injured in a backover accident may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Family members of fatal backover accident victims may also be able to claim benefits. Speak with an attorney if you have questions about a workers' compensation claim.

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