Virginia’s reverse signal operation standard for equipment and vehicles

The backing of equipment and vehicles, also known as “reverse operations,” has caused an average of two work related fatalities per year in Virginia since 1992.  

In an effort to reduce reverse operation injuries and fatalities, the Virginia Department of Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) Program implemented the Reverse Signal Operation Safety Requirements for Vehicles, Machinery and Equipment for General Industry and the Construction Industry, 16 VAC 25-97.

This rule uses a multiple-strategy approach and requires action from equipment operators and ground guides as well as all workers on foot to ensure vehicles and equipment with an obstructed view to the rear are backed up safely.  Emphasis is placed upon employee training.

The new regulation will provide that vehicles, machinery and equipment with an “obstructed view to the rear” shall not be operated in reverse unless:

  1. The vehicle has a reverse signal alarm audible above the surrounding noise level; and
  2. Either the vehicle is backed up only when a designated observer or ground guide signals that it is safe to do so; or
  3. The driver visually determines that no employee is in the path of the covered vehicle before operating the covered vehicle in reverse.

“Obstructed view to the rear” is anything that interferes with the view of the driver to the rear of the vehicle at ground level and includes structural members of the vehicle: its load (e.g., gravel, dirt, machinery parts; its height relative to ground level viewing; damage to windows or side mirrors, etc., used for rearview movement; restricted visibility due to weather conditions (e.g., heavy fog, heavy snow); or work being done after dark without proper lighting.

Work procedures and training requirements are to be provided for designated observers/ground guides and drivers/operators of covered equipment.

Ground guides should NOT:

  • Do any activities other than those related to the vehicle being signaled
  • Use personal cell phones/head phones, etc., that could pose a distraction
  • Go behind in close proximity to a vehicle while it is backing up

Ground guides SHOULD:

  • Be trained in the requirements of the regulation
  • Always stay in the line of sight of the vehicle driver while it is backing up
  • Stay a safe working distance from the vehicle
  • Be provided with and wear during daylight hours a safety vest/jacket in orange, yellow, strong yellow green or fluorescent versions of these colors
  • Be provided with and wear at nighttime a safety vest/jacket with retroreflective material in orange, yellow, white, silver, strong yellow green or a fluorescent version of these colors (visible at a minimum distance of 1,000 feet)

Drivers/operators SHOULD:

  • Be trained in the requirements of the regulation; and
  • Not operate a vehicle in reverse unless they keep constant line of sight of the ground guide.  If visual contact with the ground guide is lost, the driver shall immediately stop the vehicle until sight of the ground guide is regained and a signal is received from the ground guide to restart back-up operations.

All employees should NOT:

Cross the path in close proximity to a vehicle while it is backing up.

VOSH has done an excellent job at developing support and training materials to assist employers in understanding and implementing this regulation.  Additional information and training tips can be found on their Web site.

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