Vehicle Backing Safety

One out of every four vehicle accidents can be blamed on poor backing skills, according to the National Safety Council. Approximately 500 people die and 15,000 are injured due to backing accidents each year. Using safe vehicle backing tips can help prevent you or your employees from experiencing the trauma and expense of a backing accident.

  • Think ahead. Drivers should not put themselves in an unnecessary backing situation.

  • Park defensively. Drivers choose an easy-exit parking space, like pull-through or where no one else is parked. Don’t crowd neighboring vehicles; be sure to park your vehicle in the middle of your space.

  • Know your vehicle’s blind spots. Drivers need to remember that mirrors never give the whole picture while backing. In a medium-sized truck, blind spots can extend up to 16 feet in front and 160 feet behind the vehicle.

  • Do a walk-around. Before entering your vehicle do a walk-around. This gives you a firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations. You can check for children, signs, poles, drop-offs, buildings, and other things you might hit if not attentive in your backing.

  • Know your clearances. While performing your walk-around also check for obstructions, low hanging eaves and tree limbs, wires, and any other potential clearance-related obstacles.

  • Alley parking is a special circumstance. If an alley doesn’t permit driving all the way through or room to turn around, you should back into it (if ordinances permit) so when leaving you can pull forward into the street rather than backing blindly out into the street.

  • Use a spotter. Have another person help when backing. The driver and spotter should use hand signals instead of verbal instructions. This may take some practice so that you understand each other’s signals. Do not allow the spotter to be positioned directly behind your vehicle or walk backwards behind you while giving instructions. They should be off to the driver’s side where you can see them in your side mirror.

  • Every backing situation is new and different. Sometimes a driver visits the same location several times a day. The driver should be watchful each visit for changes and new obstacles (new vehicles, trash cans, people, etc.)

  • Drivers sometimes must spot for themselves. They need to return to the vehicle and start backing within a few seconds after finishing their walk-around. This will allow very little time for people, cars, or other obstacles to change the backup conditions. Backing without a spotter should only take place after the driver has learned as much as possible about the area they are backing into.

Long-Term Solutions to Safe Backing:

  • Install rear-vision camera systems in vehicles to eliminate rear blind spots. Investing in a rear-vision camera system for vehicles can put drivers in full visual control of the rear of a vehicle.

  • No amount of forward-driving experience can help a driver with backing a truck or other vehicles. All drivers need practice, practice, practice in safe surroundings until they become familiar with the way the vehicle backs up compared to the direction the steering wheel is turned. Supervisors need to test and approve drivers’ skills before allowing them on the streets.

  • Create and support a company-wide training program. The program should include a driver’s course to teach and review backing techniques, as well as covering equipment usage, hand signals, dangers to avoid, and other risk-lowering topics. OMAG has partnered with OSU/OKC’s Precision Driving School to provide training to municipal drivers free of charge. Contact OMAG Risk Management Services to get more details on how to sign up.

With so many potential injuries, loss of property and vehicular liability claims isn’t it worth it to take some time to evaluate your vehicle backing skill?

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Distracted Walking: A Major Working Safety Concern

Distracted driving is a well-established problem, so much so that many states have bans in place when it comes to using technology while driving, but the problem of “distracted walking” is a relatively new hazard. Sure, people have been walking out in front of moving objects or stepping off cliffs since the beginning of time, but a new piece of daily-use equipment seems to be increasing the problem – smartphones and tablets. While we might laugh at a woman who falls into a fountain while texting or someone who walks into a glass wall while watching a you-tube video on his phone, the problem with distracted walking is a very serious one.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 5,000 pedestrians were killed and another 76,000 injured in traffic accidents in 2012. While it is not clear how many of these were directly attributed to distracted walking, pedestrian fatalities are getting worse each year, perhaps due to the use of smart phones and other devices.

Common risks associated with distracted walking include: trips, sprains, strains, fractures, cuts, bruises, broken bones, concussions, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, death, and injuries to someone else. People who text while walking are 60% more likely to be injured or cause injury than non-texters. Scientist call the phenomenon, “inattentive blindness”; they state the human brain can only adequately focus on one task at a time. So, when you are texting or talking on the phone and trying to walk, you cannot give full attention to both tasks. Today we hear people brag about being able to “multi-task”, but our brains cannot efficiently provide adequate attention to more than one task at a time.

It’s not just texting while walking that is the problem. Talking, checking email, using social media, even playing games on your phone/tablet all contribute to the problem of distracted pedestrians. After years of decline, pedestrian deaths have started to increase since 2009, and while there is no reliable data directly related to cell phone use, experts speculate the increase is due in part to distracted users of cell phones while walking.

The solution to distracted walking is a simple one: Don’t use your cell phone or engage in other distracting activities while walking. Focus solely on the task at hand – getting from point A to point B in one piece, and worry about checking your phone when you get there.

Other safety concerns for pedestrians:

  • Traffic signals – Obey traffic signals (whether you are driving or a pedestrian). If the traffic signal is not in your favor do not begin crossing, and look before you begin to cross.

  • Cross streets at appropriate places -  Jaywalking or crossing the road where there is no crosswalk is a leading cause of pedestrian injury. The NHTSA has found that crossing streets improperly accounts for approximately 30% of pedestrian fatalities.

  • Visibility – It can be difficult for drivers to see those walking at night or in low-light or inclement weather. Wear light colored clothing, walk in well lit areas or carry a flashlight, and wear reflective clothing for added visibility.


Take the time to inform employees of the hazards of distracted walking, share with them the statistics, and create policies to reduce the potential for injuries due to distracted walking incidents. It is everybody’s responsibility to help create a safe work environment.

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What is Distracted Driving at Work?

Distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task, which is driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.

Workers in many industries and occupations spend part of their workday on the road. Drivers at work are more likely to be in a hurry to reach their destination, think about a work procedure, be tired, or use their cell phone while driving.

The following are some options both employers and employees can implement to reduce distracted driving accidents:

Employers: Use the following recommendations to prevent distracted driving.

  • Ban texting and hand-held phone use while driving a city vehicle, and apply the same rules to use of a city-issued phone while driving a personal vehicle.

  • Consider banning the use of hands-free phones.

  • Require workers to pull over in a safe location if they must text, make a call, or look up directions.

  • Prepare workers before implementing these policies by communicating:

  • How distracted driving puts them at risk of a crash

  • That driving requires their full attention while they are on the road

  • What they need to do to comply with your company’s policies

  • What action you will take if they do not follow these policies

  • Consider having workers acknowledge that they have read and understand these policies.

  • Provide workers with information to help them talk to their family about distracted driving.

Employees: Take the following actions to stay focused behind the wheel.

  • Do not text or use a hand-held phone while driving. Further, avoid using hands-free phones as much as possible – even if your employer allows them.

  • Pull over in a safe location if you must text or make a call.

  • Make necessary adjustments (e.g., adjust controls, program directions) to your car before your drive.

  • Do not reach to pick up items from the floor, open the glove box, or try to catch falling objects in the vehicle.

  • Avoid emotional conversations with passengers, or pull over in a safe location to continue the conversation. For normal conversation, passengers in the vehicle can often help lower crash risk for adult drivers.

  • Focus on the driving environment — the vehicles around you, pedestrians, cyclists, and objects or events that may mean you need to act quickly to control or stop your vehicle.

Take the time to share these ideas and opportunities to reduce distracted driving losses with your employees. Help keep them safe and your municipality free from the hassles of distracted driving incidents.

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Workplace Distraction Hazards

In a perfect world, employees don’t worry about breaking their arm, falling off scaffolds, or catching a lung disease. In a perfect world, they would be provided with excellent training, not just once, but regularly. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about hazards at all. Besides being comfortable and self-cleaning, PPE could be worn in a matter of seconds and would have built-in chemical and radiation detectors. In a perfect world, when a vehicle was about to hit an employee or fire threatened to incinerate them, a bubble, from their PPE, would suddenly encompass them and keep them safe. Being resistant to fire, chemical toxins, harmful gases, and all the negative vibes of the world, the bubble would be the ultimate life and limb saver for the employee on the job. Maybe that’s taking it a bit too far, but you get the idea. All employees, whether they know it or not, wish for a job where they are provided with adequate training and PPE to keep them safe from the hazards in their workplace.

But even in a perfect world, any appropriate training or top-of-the-line PPE would be useless if a worker couldn’t manage one of the most threatening factors on the job: Distractions. Statistics show that distractions are a major contributor to many workplace injuries and fatalities.

Let’s briefly look at the 5 most common distractions on the job:

  1. Mental distractions and inattention – Have you ever replayed in your mind unpleasant scenes from home while operating equipment? Or perhaps fantasized about how events will play out concerning your upcoming big weekend plans? Maybe you’ve chatted with a coworker while performing a hazardous task. Mental distractions often lead to inattention, and that could lead to you or a coworker being injured or killed. Whether you are worrying, daydreaming, or just chatting, mental distractions can be just as dangerous as working with electricity or highly flammable materials. Avoid falling into mental distractions. Stay focused on your work.

  2. Poor housekeeping – Visual clutter can easily be translated into mental clutter. Frustration from not being able to find something due to a messy workplace can lead to overlooking a safety issue or make you angry enough to resort to aggression or violence. Keep work areas clean and clear of clutter, organize equipment and materials, and keep them in their place. Remember, too, that poor housekeeping says a lot about your attitude towards safety, quality, and productivity. Messy workspace also may give others the impression you are slothful.

  3. Machinery – Make sure you perform work at a safe distance from machines, heavy equipment, and electrical hazards. They can impede your maneuverability, hearing, and vision which could cause a mishap or injury due to entrapment in moving parts or a slip, trip, and fall.

  4. Hearing – Wear earplugs or muffs when working around loud machinery or equipment. But always ask your supervisor if it is permissible to listen to music or podcasts with earphones while working. It could be a distraction that could be fatal. No music or story is worth your life.

  5. Long Unkempt Hair – Many accidents are caused by somebody getting hair caught in machinery or simply attempting to fix their hair while operating equipment. Loose and flowing hair can get in your face and obstruct vision or become a distracting annoyance causing a worker to perform an unsafe task. Tie long hair back, wear a hat, or get a haircut.

In a perfect world, distractions don’t exist, but since we’re stuck in an imperfect universe, all we can do is our job and do it safely to the best of our ability. We can try to help our coworkers to do the same. While some factors in the workplace can play a role in causing distractions, the fact remains that more workplace hazards spring from unsafe acts than from unsafe conditions.

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