At our companies, safety is our top concern in every task we perform, from the smallest of jobs to the most complex. Across our hot mix asphalt and ready-mix concrete plants, aggregate facilities, laboratories, shops and offices, our teams meet for safety huddles to identify possible safety risks and talk about ways to avoid or mitigate them so we can work safely.
One common area of focus across our locations in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Beaumont and the Dallas-Fort Worth area is in backing vehicles safely. According to the National Safety Council, backing accidents cause 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries each year, not to mention property damage incidents. In our line of business, operating heavy machinery is a daily task and our drivers and operators are experts at what they do. But they know that backing up creates more risk for incidents to occur, and it only takes one mistake to potentially cause a tragic accident.
So here are a few practices and safeguards we follow to help reduce the hazards of backing. These guidelines help keep our personnel safe when doing asphalt, ready-mix, and aggregate operations, but they can also be useful in daily life:
- Eliminate backing as much as possible. You’d be surprised that most work areas and tasks can be set up in a way that eliminates the need to back a vehicle at all.
- Look for pull-through parking. It’s the safest option and positions you to easily pull forward out of a parking spot rather than backing out into unknown vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
- Look for back-in parking where pull-through isn’t an option. Back-in parking is a requirement at all our locations, and for good reason! It’s a safe way to park your vehicle that ensures you won’t have to back up into unknown traffic with limited visibility. Back-in parking isn’t always an option depending on where you are, but when possible, it’s an easy change to make that could help prevent an accident in the future.
- Complete a walk-around of your vehicle before backing up. This way, you can be aware of what is in your blind spots prior to making a move.
- Use a spotter when appropriate. If backing is necessary and there are hazards present, such as ground personnel or fixed objects, it may be appropriate to work with a spotter. Always maintain visual contact with your spotter, and stop the vehicle immediately if you lose sight of him or her.
- Marked fixed objects so they are more visible. Using flags or other high-visibility items makes it easier for vehicle operators to remain aware of hazards.
Remember: many accidents occur when we are distracted or in a hurry. When our minds are occupied on anything other than the task at hand, we lose focus and fail to notice safety hazards or take the proper precautions.
Keeping these simple safeguards in mind can help you eliminate the potential for accidents when backing up your vehicle.