Safety Tips

Safety in Reverse

A Dangerous Way to go

Almost every motorized vehicle - car, truck, front end loader - is designed for forward travel. That's where visibility is best; that's where control is most sure. But almost every vehicle is equipped to travel forward as well as in reverse.

We may have only one reverse gear compared to 3, 4, 6 or even 10 forward gears - but in the workplace that reverse gear causes more incidents, accidents and injuries than all of the forward gears combined.

It seems like it's only in reverse that piles of supplies, posts, or other vehicles jump into our way. Far too often, we back up without looking and keep going until we hear or feel the crunch.

It's just not good enough. The cost of vehicle or machinery repair can be staggering - even without considering the lost production from out-of-service machines.

Obviously, vehicles are necessary on all construction sites. Knowing how to backup safety can save all of us - drivers, operators and pedestrians alike. That's why we all have to put safety in reverse!

Go Forward

Don't back up unless you have to. Some good tips:

Park so you can leave by driving forward
If you are dumping loads, try to use drive-by dumping instead of backing up
If you have to back into a location, position yourself using forward travel so you backup as little as possible

Several Backing Procedures

When you do have to back up, there are a number of things you can to minimize the risk:

Always make sure your vehicle is fitted with a backup alarm.
As you approach an area where you need to back up, examine it closely - look out for any obstructions or possible hazards.
Pick out some landmarks that you will be able to see in your mirrors.
If you become disoriented or unsure as to where you are, or what is behind you, STOP! If necessary, pull forward and circle around (left if possible).
Stay well clear of other vehicles, machinery, and pedestrians.
If dumping material for dozing, make sure you never backup to a moving dozer - maintain constant visual contact with the operator.
Where necessary use a spotter (designated signal person) to guide you when backing up.

Using a Spotter

When backing up in a congested area or shop areas, use a ground spotter to ensure safety. Follow only the directions of one spotter and STOP immediately if you lose site of the spotter.

Spotting on Foot

If you are asked to be a spotter on foot, make sure you:

Are trained in all necessary hand signals and safety precautions
Have a good flashlight and wear a high visibility vest
Stand in a way that the equipment operator can stop with the cab opposite you, and maintain eye-to-eye contact with you
Keep a safe distance from heavy equipment while spotting

Be Alert

If you are a pedestrian or operating a vehicle on site, be constantly alert for vehicles or machinery - particularly if they are backing up. Remember the operator's vision may be obscured and you may not be seen until it's too late.


Almost everyone has had that scary experience of hopping into the car to get a quart of milk before supper and...CRUNCH.

Ever scratch a bicycle, wagon, toy, or lawn chair? Fortunately, most of us can be thankful that all we did was crush some metal and plastic instead of flesh and bone.

Those in our families who drive must remain constantly alert for hazards behind them. We cannot assume that the driveway behind us is clear because it was clear a few minutes ago. We have to get into the habit of looking every time.

We have to teach our children about the risk of vehicles in reverse. Children learn about forward travel very quickly. That's the direction they see cars traveling. But they tend not to think about the backing up hazard. And the results can be tragic.

Take a few minutes and teach safety in reverse and then practice what you preach. The result will be a safer future for your whole family.


Whether it's a compact car or a 200 tonne truck, backing up can be a killer if it's not done correctly. When operating a vehicle in reverse, pay close attention - realize that you are not doing a natural thing and that the risk is higher.

When you're operating vehicles, be alert to their movement and potential movement. Attention, visibility and control are often seriously reduced in reverse. Be extra careful to compensate for the operator's reduced margin of safety.

Whether driver or pedestrian, it's up to you to ensure "safety in reverse".