Choosing and training safe drivers

What's the problem?

Every year there are numerous incidents involving reversing vehicles in British workplaces. Just under half of all incidents involving being struck by a moving vehicle involved reversing. Many other reversing accidents do not result in injury, but cause costly damage to vehicles, equipment and premises.

Most of these incidents can be avoided by taking simple precautions, such as those below.


Employers must identify significant risks from workplace transport activities including reversing vehicles at their own and other sites their vehicles may visit, and put in place ways to reduce these risks. It is unlikely that any single measure will be enough to ensure safety - safe site, safe driver and safe vehicle issues will all need to be considered. Where controls are introduced it is vital that they are enforced and their effectiveness monitored.

Plan your site so as to reduce the risk from reversing vehicles:

  • The most effective way of dealing with the risk of reversing incidents is to remove or minimise the need for vehicles to reverse. Setting up one- way systems or drive through loading/unloading positions can help achieve this. Ensure visiting drivers know what your site rules are.
  • Where this is not possible then designated and clearly marked reversing areas where pedestrians are prohibited can be effective.
  • In any case, separating pedestrians from vehicles is essential if accidents are to be avoided. For instance, by setting out clear and safe pedestrian walkways.
  • If the site is small then the size of vehicle visiting may need to be restricted to allow safe access and minimise the need for reversing.

If it is not possible to change the site layout then other control measures will be necessary.

Vehicle based aids can be helpful if vehicles are delivering to sites where reversing cannot be eliminated or where it will not be possible to guarantee pedestrian segregation, for example public places.

Close circuit television (CCTV) can be used to improve the driver's rearward vision. It allows drivers to detect people at the rear of the vehicle before or during reversing. Companies who have fitted CCTV to their vehicles and who have trained their drivers to use it properly have reported tangible benefits - not only in cutting the risk of injuries, but also reducing impact damage to vehicles and buildings.

Vehicle based sensing systems, such as ultrasonics are also available. These warn the driver or stop the vehicle when an obstruction is detected close to or comes into contact with the vehicle. Companies have found these of most use as parking aids and not for detecting pedestrians as they have only a limited range and slow speed of operation. They can be effective when used in combination with systems such as CCTV.

Reversing alarms should be kept in working order if supplied with the vehicle. However, it should be remembered that they will not detect pedestrians and rely on the pedestrian responding to the alarm in the correct way. Where there are a number of vehicles operating, or in public areas, the alarm can become part of the background noise.

Contrary to popular belief the use of banksmen to control reversing operations is not a recommended option. It can involve putting the banksman in the potential danger area of a reversing vehicle. Every year banksmen suffer serious and fatal injuries whist at work. If as a result of your risk assessment you decide you have to use a banksman make sure they are trained to carry out their duties safely and that there is a safe system of work which ensures:

  • that the banksman and driver are using standard signals (see Section of website);
  • that the driver knows he must stop the vehicle immediately if the banksman disappears from view;
  • that the banksman stands in a safe position without being in the way of the vehicle;
  • that the banksman wears high visibility clothing.

The use of pedestrian marshals to keep the reversing area free of pedestrians, but not to direct the vehicle, may be necessary in some cases, for example in town centre locations, and similar rules should be applied.

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