There is a great amount of activity happening on and near work sites. Many of these come with dangers that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates, but one glaring omission is work trucks traveling in reverse. While there is one federal regulation in place, Jay Withrow tells Safety and Health Magazine that the current rule is insufficient.
A Solution That Can Be Adopted in Texas
As the director for the Division of Legal Support for Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry, Withrow was deeply involved in the crafting of Virginia's new regulations for reversing trucks in 2008. At the time, the state was looking at 30 backover-related deaths that had occurred since 1992, nine of which had occurred just between 2005 and 2007. The state was looking for a solution that would greatly reduce that number.
Withrow’s job included reviewing the legal documentation on all 30 of those incidents, including driver statements, and providing a panel of “interested parties” with detailed summaries of each. Virginia’s new regulation went into effect in September 2009, and since then, the state has only recorded 8 backover-related incidents, halving their annual average while the national average remained stagnant.
The Rest of the Country Doesn’t Have the Same Requirement That Alarms Be Audible
What is Virginia doing differently than the rest of the country? Currently, OSHA only requires that vehicles with “an obstructed view of the rear” have a backup alarm that is “audible above the surrounding noise level.” If that is not available, the driver cannot reverse until given clearance from an observer. New regulations were being considered, but were removed from the agenda earlier this year. “Just having a backup alarm does not prevent people from getting killed,” Withrow said, “I think a relatively uncomplicated regulation could be adopted and could make a big difference.”
In order to help simplify Texas truck laws, they incorporated OSHA’s standards on logging trucks into their laws for all trucks. These laws require that drivers visually ensure no one is behind the truck before starting or moving. To date, the federal government only has specific laws on this matter that mostly apply to dump trucks.
While Withrow also notes that the federal government's hands were tied in going much farther due to an existing OSHA regulation that prevents states of putting “undue burdens” on interstate commerce, Texas or OSHA should be able to at least match what Virginia has done. Reducing the annual average of backover incidents by half is a worthy goal that has proven to be attainable. We urge our lawmakers to look at the example Virginia has set and push for similar protections for workers and pedestrians near trucks.
In the meantime, we at Chad Jones Law, PC will continue to fight for the rights of those suffering personal injury from a truck. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.