Many authorities agree that backing is one of most difficult skills for drivers to master, so it’s no wonder that backing accidents are common. Poles, parked vehicles, and other stationary objects are the usual victims, but in addition to causing costly damage, backing accidents frequently injure and even kill workers.

To avoid such accidents, site owners and managers need to work with site workers and drivers to identify hazards and ensure that everyone has best practices in place in conjunction with a site safety plan.

The basic problem for drivers when backing is that they simply cannot see where they are going. There are always blind spots around any vehicle and with large trucks, the difficulties multiply. If you’re a driver, always make sure the truck’s mirrors are clean and properly adjusted before attempting to back up. Cameras on the truck can also aid your vision.

However, even with mirrors and camera in use, there are places you may not be able to see from the cab, including:

  • The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has created a fact sheet titled “Road Work – Backing Up Safely” that provides a number of tips. It suggests that drivers do a circle check before beginning to back, climbing down from the cab and walking around the vehicle to inspect under, around, and above it. The word “GOAL” is sometimes used as a quick reminder: Get Out And Look.directly behind the trailer,
  • above the ground, and
  • along the sides of the rig.

You should be watching for:

  • posts and poles,
  • buildings,
  • overhead objects, especially electrical/power lines,
  • other vehicles,
  • people in the area, and
  • anything else that might be in the way or move into the path of the backing truck.

When possible, work with a spotter or signaller who can see where you cannot. There is no substitute for the human eye and brain, and a spotter can be a great help. Both drivers and signallers need training in how to work together. If you’re in the situation of dealing with someone you haven’t worked with before, take the time to confirm the signals they will use. You need perfect communication here.

Don’t forget to turn off the cell phone, radio, and any other distractions before backing. You need all your senses and powers of concentration to pull off this skilled task safely.