Sweeper Backing Accidents

We sweep thousands of miles each year, and most of these miles are swept going forward. Although the majority of accidents occur while sweepers are going forward, about 30 percent of accidents occur when the sweeper is moving in reverse. The fact that most backing accidents are preventable, emphasis must be placed on safe backing procedures.
Accidents that occur when a sweeper is going in reverse are costly to companies. While the most frequent of claims involve property damage, bodily injury to individuals does occur. And those are the ones we read about in our news feeds.
Many hazards have to be considered when backing a sweeper:
• Inadequate clearance on both sides of the sweeper.
• Objects directly to the rear of the sweeper when it begins to back.
• Objects that can move into the pathway of the backing sweeper.
• Blind spots created by the sweeper.
• Inattentive help or spotters who are responsible for giving directions to the operator.

So, what steps can be taken to prevent these accidents?

The most important one is to make operators aware of the potential for backing accidents, and continually stress the following procedures:
• Don’t back up unless absolutely necessary. Proper planning of sweeping patterns and adequate positioning of the sweeper can reduce the amount of backing that is necessary.
• When possible, use ground guides to assist you in backing. Before any movement, the operator and ground guide should review the signals that will be used to back the sweeper. Always know exactly where the sweeper will be placed. Throughout the movement, the operator maintains full responsibility for the actions of the sweeper.
• Use all available aids to stay aware of your surroundings, such as both side mirrors of the sweeper, reflections of the sweeper in windows, and shadows thrown by the sweeper.
• When no spotter is available, get out and walk around the entire sweeper. This “circle of safety” should be used to observe anything that could come into contact with the sweeper. Be sure to observe areas above ground level such as clearance from the top and sides of the sweeper.
• Make sure the proper mirrors are installed, and they are correctly adjusted before moving the sweeper.
• Make sure that backup lights function properly. These act as a warning to others that the sweeper is moving in reverse.
• Backup alarms are required on sweeping equipment. These alarms are devices to warn anyone in a sweeper’s path that it is moving backward. Beeping alarms were introduced in the 1970s, and provided a vital step forward in safety.
• Always back up slowly. When backing the sweeper, operators should always expect something to get in their pathway. Slow backing will enable quicker stops.
Sweeping backward can be done safely, but caution must be the watchword. Before you back up, always, walk around, look in all directions and go slow!

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