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This guide offers practical advice on how you can manage the risks of reversing vehicles and mobile plant.
USE OF ‘MUST’ AND ‘SHOULD’
The words ‘must’ and ‘should’ indicate whether an action is required by law or is a recommended practice or approach.
Must - Legal requirement that has to be complied with.
Should - Recommended practice of approach.
The glossary in Appendix A of this guide has a list of the technical words, terms, and abbreviations used in this guide and explains what they mean.
Lists of examples are not intended as complete lists. They may list some but not all possible examples.
Images are a guide only. They are not intended to provide technical specifications
What this guide is about
This guide offers practical advice on how you can manage the risks of reversing vehicles and mobile plant.
This guide is written for:
- PCBUs (persons conducting a business or undertaking) who manage a work site where there may be reversing vehicles or mobile plant
- PCBUs whose workers work on or near vehicles or mobile plant (at a site they manage, or any other site)
- workers that are involved with directing or operating reversing vehicles or mobile plant.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) PCBUs have a duty to make sure the health and safety of workers, contractors, visitors and members of the public are not put at risk as a result of the work that they do. This includes a duty to make sure people are safe around vehicles and mobile plant while at work.
Workers also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and make sure their actions do not cause harm to others.
This guide applies to all work sites (dynamic and static sites), vehicles and mobile plant, across all industries. For example:
Work site examples
- Inwards/outwards goods zones
- Timber yards
- Postal/courier depots
- Construction sites
- Civil construction
- Residential construction
- Forestry sites
- Trucking yards
- Waste transfer stations
Vehicles/mobile plant examples
- Trucks such as
- Dump trucks
- Trucks and trailers
- Articulated trucks
In this guide the term vehicle will be used to refer to all relevant types of vehicles and mobile plant. The term driver will be used to refer to all drivers and operators of vehicles and mobile plant.
When deciding how to manage the risk of reversing vehicles, PCBUs must engage with their workers. Workers can provide valuable insights into what the biggest risk areas are, and which control measures might be most effective.
Working together with other PCBUs
PCBUs that share the same duties at a work site, must consult and coordinate with each other to manage the shared risk.
One PCBU cannot push the responsibility to manage risk on to another PBCU and they cannot contract out of their responsibilities to manage risk.
PCBUs should decide together how the risks will be managed. For example they could agree that the PCBU that manages the work site could focus on control measures related to their site layout, while the PCBU whose vehicles visit the site could focus on control measures related to their vehicles and drivers. Both should work together to establish safe practices for activities that involve workers from both PCBUs – such as providing spotting assistance for reversing vehicles.
This guide should be read in conjunction with WorkSafe good practice guidelines: Managing work site traffic
2.0 Managing the risks of reversing vehicles
This section provides examples of ways you can control the risks associated with reversing vehicles. As a PCBU, you will need to assess your individual situation to decide what controls will be the most effective, and reasonably practicable for your situation. This may mean adopting a combination of control measures to manage the risk.
Eliminate the need for vehicles to reverse
The best control measure is to eliminate the need for vehicles to reverse. This can be achieved through good site design such as creating a one way system, dedicated turning area, or by using multi-directional vehicles or vehicles with rotating cabins.
However, historical site layouts, smaller sites, and other factors, may not allow for this.
Where elimination is not reasonably practicable, you should consider:
- creating a dedicated reversing area where people and other vehicles cannot enter
- improving visibility and awareness by using devices like reversing sensors, reversing cameras, lights, and mirrors
- using a spotter to help guide the driver.
Create a dedicated reversing area
Dedicated reversing areas should have the following features:
- barriers around the area to prevent people from entering the area. Barriers can be either fixed or temporary depending on the type of site (see Figures 1 and 2)
- be clearly marked and signposted where reversing is allowed, and that anyone not directly involved in the reversing activity should stay away
- be well lit
- be on firm level ground.
Improve visibility and awareness
Driver visbility and awareness
Consider using vehicles that have additional features to remove blind spots and that help drivers navigate when visibility is limited. For example:
- additional lighting (if the vehicle is operating at night)
- extra mirrors (see Figure 3)
- reversing cameras (see Figure 4)
- proximity warning devices that can alert the driver when they are getting too close to people or objects.
Pedestrian visibility and awareness
To help people be aware and stay clear of reversing vehicles, consider adding the following features to vehicles (if not already present):
- flashing or rotating beacons
- a horn
- laser projected proximity lines – these show how far away a person should be from the vehicle while it is in operation.
Retrofitting safety features
If you choose to retrofit safety features to existing vehicles or mobile plant, make sure those features do not introduce new risks (such as additional mirrors creating new blind spots).
Make sure that their installation does not compromise the integrity of any operator protective structure (OPS). You may need to have the operator protective structure re-certified if additions or alterations are made.
Use spotters to guide reversing vehicles
Where vehicles have no option but to reverse you should consider using a spotter to help guide the driver. Spotters can be especially helpful when:
- the driver does not have full visibility
- the manoeuvring area is small
- there are other hazards in the area that cannot be removed or isolated.
Sometimes two spotters may be needed. See Using two spotters in the next section of this guide for more details.
Vehicles that are frequently or routinely reversing
It may not be practical to have a spotter always on hand to guide vehicles that are frequently or routinely reversing (such as forklifts in a warehouse)
In these cases, you may need to rely on other control measures such as:
- creating exclusion zones to keep people out of the area where the vehicle will be operating (using signs, and permanent or temporary barriers)
- adding features to the vehicle to improve visibility and awareness (see Improve visibility and awareness above)
- installing speed limiting devices to make sure the vehicle does not exceed a safe speed for the conditions it is operating in.
General reversing good practice
Before reversing (even when using a dedicated reversing area and/or a spotter), drivers should:
- familiarise themselves with the area
- always check behind them before they start moving
- check that all mirrors are intact, functional, clean, and properly adjusted for the best view
- check that all reversing devices (if fitted) are functional, for example lights and alarms
- turn off or silence phones and vehicle radios (except two-way radios)
- check that everyone nearby is aware that reversing is about to take place
- visually locate people on foot to make sure that they are clear of the vehicle’s path
- if necessary, put up temporary barriers to stop people from re-entering the area.
While reversing, drivers should:
- reverse only if the way is clear
- stop reversing immediately if anyone disappears from view (including any spotters_
- resume reversing only when visual contact is restored with people and you have reconfirmed that the path is clear
- check both side mirrors repeatedly (and any other visual aids such as cameras).
3.0 Safe practices for vehicle spotting
A spotter uses hand or light signals to guide a driver while reversing or turning and makes sure the reversing area is free of people or other obstacles.
Before starting a reversing operation using a spotter, the driver and spotter should:
- make sure they both know and agree on the standard systems for communication. See Hand signals for day-time spotting and Light signals for night-time spotting
- they should discuss and confirm exactly what signals will be used. This is to make sure both spotter and driver interpret signals the same way
- walk over the intended reversing path and agree where the vehicle will end up
- discuss where the blind spots are for that vehicle. The driver will rely on the spotter to be aware of any obstructions in the blind spots to the left and right of the vehicle as well as behind it (see Figure 6)
- make sure the spotter has a good understanding of how much space the turning vehicle will need (including the way articulated vehicles and trailers may move when being reversed)
- make sure they are both fit for work (they are not suffering from fatigue1 or under the influence of any substances that could impair their ability2).
In industries where vehicles can be very large (such as quarrying), radio contact should be used, with the spotter in a safe location further away from the vehicle but still able to see what is happening.
Driver responsibilities when using a spotter
When reversing using a spotter for guidance, the driver should:
- be able to recognise and interpret the agreed signals the spotter will be using. See Hand signals for day-time spotting and Light signals for night-time spotting
- follow the spotter’s instructions
- stop the vehicle if in doubt about the spotter’s instructions
- stop reversing immediately when a spotter or any other person3 in the reversing area disappears from view. Resume reversing only when visual contact is restored with the spotter or other person
- stop the vehicle if the spotter needs to change their position.
Spotter responsibilities when guiding a driver
When spotting for a driver the spotter should:
- use the agreed signals. See Hand signals for daytime spotting and Light signals for night-time spotting
- wear reflective high visibility clothing at all times (and any other personal protective equipment required at the work site)
- stand in a position that:
- makes them visible at all times to the driver (see Figures 7, 8 and 9)
- is not in the path of the reversing/turning vehicle
- allows them to clearly see the area surrounding the vehicle, specifically the driver’s blind spots (which are often to the side of the vehicle as well as behind it (See Figure 6).
- avoid walking backwards
- avoid walking behind a reversing vehicle
- never stand on the trailer side of a truck and trailer unit while it is jack-knife tipping
- make sure no one is behind the vehicle before signalling the driver/operatorto start reversing
- immediately signal the driver to stop if any person or object enters the vehicle movement area
- signal the driver to stop when the spotter needs to change positions.
Using two spotters
If the vehicle is particularly long or large, you may need to use two spotters to make sure all areas around the vehicle can be seen.
When two spotters are being used, they should discuss beforehand with each other and the driver what each spotter will be doing and how the three will communicate during the operation. The two spotters should always be visible to each other and the driver.
The spotter can see the driver and the driver has a clear view of the spotter in their mirror.
The mirror is out of sight of the spotter, and the driver does not have a clear view of the spotter.
Hand signals for day-time spotting
The table below shows the signals that spotters should use to help drivers to reverse their vehicles safely during day-time operations. The signals should be slow, deliberate and clear.
Light signals for night-time spotting
Ideally work sites should be well lit so reversing should not have to take place in the dark. However for situations where the light is not good enough, use traffic wands or a torch to instruct the driver. The signals should be slow, deliberate and obvious. The spotter should stand in the line of sight of the driver’s side mirror (see Figure 9). If using a torch, the spotter should keep the torch pointed slightly downwards to avoid mirror blinding the driver.
Spotters should not wear headlamps while spotting, as these could blind the driver and head movements could be mistaken for spotting signals. Spotters should wear high visibility night-glo vests or jackets.
4.0 More information
Good practice guideline
Quick reference guide
Primary duty of care - Section 36 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link)
Reasonably practicable - Section 22 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link)
1 See our fatigue section for more information.
2 See WorkSafe’s position on impairment and testing for drugs at work for more information
Appendix 1: Glossary
Reversing using a spotter: spotting signals quick reference guide
This short guide lists the basic steps to take before and during spotting, and shows what the standard signals are for daytime and night time spotting.