Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry


December 18, 2012

Backing up blind spots

Backing up (and today's pop quiz question)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 70 workers died last year in the U.S. when vehicles backed over them. In Oregon, the numbers aren't quite so grim but at least six workers have been injured in such incidents, three of which involved forklifts.

Now, here's today's pop quiz question: Are forklifts required to have backup alarms? The answer is no. Most forklifts aren't required to have backup alarms because, typically, they don't have an obstructed view to the rear.

Oregon OSHA's construction-industry rule, 437-003-3225(9), Warning Devices, says that vehicles with an obstructed view to the rear must have a backup alarm that can be heard over the surrounding noise. This does not apply when the vehicle backs up and an observer (or the operator) verifies that there is no one behind the vehicle and that no one will enter the "danger area" without the operator's knowledge. A similar requirement – 437-002-2225(9), Warning devices – applies to general-industry workplaces.

What does ANSI say? ANSI B56.1 says:

4.1.2: "Unusual operating conditions may require additional safety precautions and operating instructions." And 4.15.2: "The user shall determine if operating conditions require the truck to be equipped with additional sound-producing or visual (such as lights or blinkers) devices, and be responsible for providing and maintaining such devices."

Wondering how those three Oregon workers were injured when they were struck by forklifts that were backing up?

  • The victim was walking past several stacked units of lumber at the same time a forklift was backing out after stacking two units of lumber and was run over.
  • The victim was walking across the plant floor and looked to see if any traffic was in the area. A forklift was traveling in reverse with two totes on the forks and struck the victim, then moved forward unaware of the victim beneath the counterweight.
  • The forklift operator was driving in reverse and pinned an employee between the forklift and pallets of concrete block.

Want more information? Federal OSHA recently has published a new "Preventing back-overs in construction" webpage that offers information on how to prevent incidents that can happen when a vehicle backs up.


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