Act First Safety

Lauren McFarlane, BA, CHSC
Act First Safety

I was nearly hit by a neighbour’s car as I was driving down my street the other day. The driver was reversing from their driveway onto the residential street. When I questioned the young driver if he could see me and why he didn’t stop, incredibly he replied, “I didn’t need to look. I was using the car’s backup camera”. Needless to say, when it comes to backing up safely, we all still have a lot to learn.

When it comes to car safety, the National Safety Council estimates that 25 percent of accidents can be blamed on poor backing techniques. Another source indicates that backing-up incidents account for half of all reportable fleet incidents.

When it comes to vehicular activities involving equipment such as lift trucks, telehandlers, skid steers, trucks, cars, elevating work platforms (aerial lifts) and other material handling equipment that can be found on industrial sites, construction sites and warehouses, we still need to be cautious and take the necessary safety precautions. Virtually all backing collisions are preventable.

How could accidents occur?
• Lack of skill
• Poor visibility
• Rushing
• Inattentiveness
• Unnecessary backing-up
• Driving too quickly
• Improper or lack of safety checks

Most of the time material handling equipment like lift trucks, are operated moving forward. Yet, most incidents occur when operating in reverse.

7 Tips to Avoid Backing Incidents:
1. Avoid Backing
• Find a spot to pull through to park.
• Back-in whenever possible to allow your first move to be forward.
2. Circle Check
• Before moving your vehicle, walk around it checking for potential hazards.
3. Look Back
• Check and double-check before starting to back-up.
• Use mirrors if available and always look in the direction of travel.
4. Back-up Slowly
• Keep speed to a walking pace to ensure safe operating control of the equipment and to react to problems if they arise.
5. Use a Spotter or Guide
• If there is a reliable person who can help guide you back, use them! Agree on signals before starting back and keep them in sight. Stop if you lose sight of your guide.
6. Avoid Distractions
• Avoid use of mobile devices such as electronics and removing clutter that can shift with movement.
7. Practise
• We back-up infrequently. Practising our backing skills will increase our level of confidence.
Whether you are operating a lift truck (forklift), aerial lift, material handling equipment or a car or truck for work, integrating these safety habits into the operation of your personal vehicles is a good practice too. Tragically, across North America every year, over 250 children are killed in the driveways of their own homes in back-over incidents where a parent, relative or friend backs up while the child is behind the vehicle and can’t be seen.

Backing incidents at best are expensive, but at worst can end up as fatalities. Not only on the job, but also at home!

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