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Preventing Backovers

The problem of backover deaths in work zones plagues Laborers and has long been a focus of the LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division.

Work zones are noisy, busy and often congested with heavy equipment and workers on foot. Large, backing vehicles have wide blind spots behind them in which a pedestrian is invisible to the vehicle’s operator. Backup alarms often break or malfunction, and even when they work properly, they are often lost in the din and distraction of site noise. They just are not effective enough. Between 2005 and 2010, backovers killed almost 360 workers.

With new technology such as wireless video cameras and the use of spotters, there is no reason that operators should back up blind. A few states (WA, VA) now have requirements that are more protective. LHSFNA raised this issue on a national level, and on March 28, 2012, OSHA issued a Request for Information on how the agency could change its rules to better prevent backovers.

The Fund developed and designed the 14-page Internal Traffic Control Plans booklet that provides guidance for establishing separation of vehicles and workers in work zone operations. The booklet now carries the NIOSH and OSHA Alliance logos as well as the endorsements of the National Asphalt Pavers Association (NAPA) and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). The Fund also remains a persistent proponent of video and radar systems that alert vehicle operators when someone is behind. These systems are increasingly effective and affordable.

Comments from Laborers and contractors can influence OSHA to develop more protective standards to eliminate these deadly but preventable catastrophes.

Comments must be received by June 27, 2012. They may be submitted at, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Comments can also be submitted by mail or fax.

[Steve Clark]

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