Virginia Adopts Reversing Vehicle Safety Rule
Construction and general industry vehicles with an "obstructed view to the rear" must have a working and audible backup alarm, or a ground guide must indicate it is safe to back up.
Bidding to curb deaths of workers struck by backing trucks and industrial vehicles, the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program and the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board have adopted a new regulation for construction and general industry equipment with an "obstructed view to the rear." Published Aug. 17 and effective Sept. 18, 2009, it says employers may not operate such vehicles in reverse unless they have a working reverse signal alarm audible above the surrounding noise level; are operated in reverse only when a designated observer or ground guide says it is safe to do so; or the driver first visually determines no employee is in the vehicle's path. "Obstructed view" means anything that interferes with the driver's view, including structural members of the vehicle, load, damage to a rear window or side mirrors, weather conditions, or work done after dark without proper lighting.
The rule says ground guides may not use a cell phone, headphones, or other equipment that could cause a distraction, may not perform any activity unrelated to the vehicle being signaled, and may not walk close behind a vehicle that is backing. Drivers who lose sight of a ground guide must immediately stop the vehicle. VOSH has posted a training certification form on its site for employers to use. The regulation also says refresher training must be provided for any driver or ground guide who has violated the regulation, been involved in a reverse operation accident or near miss, or received an evaluation indicating he has not been operating under the regulation in a safe manner.
VOSH worked on the regulation for three years, taking comments from numerous construction companies, associations, and unions. The agency's explanatory documents say Virginia has averaged two fatal accidents per year (4 percent of all VOSH fatalities) since 1992 that involved reverse operation of construction and general industry vehicles, even though there are federal OSHA regulations addressing this in 1926.601, Motor vehicles; 1926.602, Material Handling Equipment; 1926.952, Mechanical Equipment; and 1910.269, Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution.
"Our goal is to have every employee return home at night in the same condition they started the day. We feel that this measure gets us one step closer to achieving that goal," said C. Ray Davenport, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, parent agency of VOSH, which offers quick cards, a training program, the text of the regulation, enforcement procedures, interpretations, and other materials in English and Spanish on its Web site. The department's frequently asked questions page says some commenters asked what a road construction general contractor should do if an independent dump truck driver arrives at a site in a truck with a malfunctioning backup alarm; the department said it supports barring such vehicles from the site.
From Sept. 18 to Oct. 18, 2009, VOSH will fully enforce the basic requirements of the regulation, which are similar to current federal regulations, but will issue one warning and provide handout materials for any violation of the section setting requirements for ground guides/designated observers and drivers. Such violations must be corrected on the spot. The section containing the training requirements will not be cited during the 30-day period.