When a worker is standing, kneeling or walking behind a vehicle and is struck when the vehicle backs up, this is a backover injury. These backover injuries are far too common and are very preventable. In 2011, there were over 70 deadly backover incidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These accidents happen for a variety of reasons and in a broad range of situations. Here are some best practices for avoiding these issues.
Causes of Backover Incidents
There are a variety of causes for accidents involving vehicles backing up. Most involve the driver being unaware of the pedestrian behind them. Some issues that contribute to such incidents are:
- Blind spots
- Work site noise and distraction
- Non-functional alarm systems
- Spotters not seeing other vehicles
- Worker falls
The most common vehicle involved in backover fatalities is the dump truck. Between the years of 2005 and 2010, there were 67 deaths from this type of vehicle. Other vehicles that have been involved in these accidents include:
- Big Rigs and Tractor Trailers – 40 deaths
- Box and other large trucks – 30 deaths
- Forklifts – 21 deaths
- Garbage Trucks – 20 deaths
- Pick-up trucks – 16 deaths
There are many measures that worksites can take to prevent the risk of backover injuries. Spotters are a big help and a common solution. However, when using a spotter, the worker must be aware of the entire surrounding area. Too often a spotter is focused on the vehicle they are directing and do not see another vehicle behind them.
A spotter should make sure that the area to their sides and behind is completely clear before beginning to direct a vehicle backing up. They should also frequently check their immediate vicinity while engaging in direction.
There are also technological solutions to avoid backup accidents. These include video cameras with display monitors inside the vehicle, proximity detection alarms that use radar and sonar, and RFID tag-based systems worn by workers.
Planning and Training
Traffic control and scheduling plans can be put in place to control the flow of vehicles. Such plans dictate when, where and how vehicle operators can drive. These can reduce the need for backing up, which will in turn reduce the number of incidents. In addition, keeping staff clear of vehicle paths by having designated walking areas can be a help.
Training is also vital for reducing liability from accidents caused by vehicles backing up. Many workers may not be aware of the blind spots in various kinds of vehicles. Training can help staff avoid being in such areas so that drivers can always see where they are.
In the end, a combination of practical and technological solutions is probably the best. Teaching your workers to exercise care, avoid areas of heavy vehicle traffic and watch out for blind spots can go a long way towards reducing vehicle-related fatalities. Be sure to have workers compensation insurance to protect your company from lawsuits filed by injured employees.