OSHA Safety Manuals | Vehicle Backing
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backing up safety

Vehicle Backing

Vehicle Backing

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reports the most common type of vehicle accident is a backing accident.  Due to limited vision out of the back windows or around long truck beds and equipment bodies, drivers may not see other vehicles, obstacles, or even coworkers and pedestrians when they are driving their vehicles backward.  Whether in a parking lot, on the road, a construction site, or an agricultural field, workers who learn the proper techniques can help prevent backing accidents.

Before you back your vehicle, do a vehicle walk around to check underneath and all around it for obstructions and other dangerous situations.  Inspect the doors and tailgates for proper closing and safe and secure storage for items and materials.  Insure that there is plenty of clearance around the vehicle for backing.

Some employers may use a “cone policy” that requires you to place orange safety cones at either end of the vehicle whenever you park.  Walking around the vehicle to pick up the cones before you leave gives you a chance to inspect the vehicle and your surroundings.  The cones also provide good visibility and a warning to other drivers that you are working nearby.

While CHP reports backing as the most common type of vehicle accident, speed is the most common cause of accidents.  When you are backing, make sure that you do so slowly.
Before you move, if possible, place your arm along the seat backs and turn your head to the left and right to look directly out the sides and back of the vehicle.  As the next step, or if you cannot look directly out of the vehicle, use your side and rear-view mirror to look in all directions to the rear of the vehicle.  Backup cameras and sensors are good tools that can help you keep watch around your vehicle.

If your vehicle is equipped with a backup alarm and/or is required to use the alarm, make sure that it is working properly.  If you do not have a backup alarm but feel that it is necessary to notify others that you are backing, you can put on your flashers and honk the horn as you back.  Make sure that the area behind you is clear of obstacles, pedestrians and, other vehicles before you move.  If you see pedestrians or vehicles approaching, judge their speed and distance before backing.

At times, spotters can assist you with a backing maneuver by sharing the responsibility for watching the rear of the vehicle.  If possible, don’t ask a spotter to exit the vehicle.  If you must use a spotter outside the vehicle, make sure that you can see each other in the side-view mirror at all times.  Do not proceed with backing if you lose sight of the spotter.  Two-way radios and/or hand signals can be used to help communicate.

If you are acting as a spotter or work near backing vehicles, listen for the backup alarms and watch vehicle movement.  Never assume that the driver sees you and knows where you are going.  Do not walk alongside or ride a backing vehicle.  Wear highly visible clothing if you are going to be working on foot around backing vehicles.

If you are in a hurry, you may have cause to worry.  With care and caution, you can safely back your vehicle.